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Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis defends Joe Biden's segregationist 'civility' comments
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis defends Joe Biden's segregationist 'civility' comments

'We never gave up on our fellow human beings'

Joe Biden, who has taken heavy fire from fellow Democratic presidential candidates for his comments about being civil with segregationists, got a lifeline from Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a leader of the civil rights movement, according to Politico.

Biden, attempting to make a point about working with people who have differing views, cited two senators he had good working relationships with, but who opposed racial integration of society. Lewis said he didn't find Biden's remarks offensive.

"I don't think the remarks are offensive. During the height of the civil rights movement we worked with people and got to know people that were members of the Klan—people who opposed us, even people who beat us, and arrested us and jailed us. We never gave up on our fellow human beings, and I will not give up on any human being."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called for Biden to apologize "for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans." Biden responded sharply, saying Booker should apologize to him for insinuating any negative meaning from the comments.

The two reportedly spoke on the phone after trading public shots, but neither changed their stance on the issue, nor did they apologize.

Talking points sent out from Biden's campaign encouraged surrogates and supporters to compare the blatantly racist senators Biden cited with current Republican lawmakers in an attempt to frame his comments.

"The point of the story is that you have to be able to work with people, even if they hold positions repugnant to you in order to make some progress," the talking points read. "Our opponents in this race agree—they've worked with Jeff Sessions, Steve King, Cindy Hyde-Smith among others across the aisle to do their jobs in Congress."

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