Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took some heavy shots at former vice president Joe Biden during the second night of the opening Democratic primary debates, attacking his comments about segregationist senators and his record as a senator on desegregation issues.
Biden has recently been criticized for pointing to his work with pro-segregation Democratic senators as the model of "civility."
"I will direct this at vice president Biden, I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe and it's personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country," Harris said to Biden.
"It's a mischaracterization of my position across the board," Biden pushed back. "I do not praise racists. That is not true. Number one.
"Number two, if we want to have this litigated on who supports civil rights, I'm happy to do that. I was a public defender. I was not a prosecutor," Biden said, adding a jab at Harris's history as a prosecutor.
Harris pivoted to a direct question of whether Biden opposed bussing to desegregate schools.
"But do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose bussing in American then?" Harris asked. "Do you agree?"
"I did not oppose bussing in America," Biden retorted.
The exchange represented probably the most direct and aggressive attack on Biden, who has been the primary frontrunner since before he even entered the race.
Harris impressed many observers with her performance during the first debate, showing an ability to cut through the noise on a crowded stage to make her points. Author Marianne Williamson, in contrast, did not seem so sharp during her moments of spotlight on the stage.