Senate Floor 1988: Biden Praises Life-Long Segregationist As ‘Man of Character And Courage’

Amid heated debate in Congress over Democratic demands for slavery reparations, former Vice President Joe Biden is under fire for praising notorious racial segregationists over the course of his career.

Footage of Biden praising late Sen. John Stennis (D-MS) when he retired after more than 40 years in Congress resurfaced Friday.

Stennis, who served in the Senate from 1947 to 1989, was a staunch segregationist, infamous for his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he campaigned to prevent Martin Luther King Jr. Day from becoming a federal holiday and was the primary advocate of The Southern Manifesto, a document crafted in opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.  

“To think that I would be one day on the floor of the United States Senate, being paid such accolades by such a man of character and courage as John Stennis is beyond my wild dreams,” Biden said. “And I mean that sincerely.”

The Democratic presidential frontrunner has repeatedly lauded Stennis as being a mentor and strong influence during beginning of his political career. Biden has also affectionately recalled the story of how Stennis gifted him the table which the Manifesto was signed.

Biden even took time out when he was weighing his first presidential run in 1985 to traveled to Mississippi and pay tribute to Stennis on his 84th birthday.

Drawing ire among African American leaders in the lead up to the 1988 presidential election, Biden characterizing the racial segregationist as a beacon of honor and “integrity” and drew comparisons of Stennis to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.   

“When you stand on the floor of the Senate and you point that finger and you raise your voice, it’s like a bolt from a clear sky, and when you speak, everyone listens,” Biden said. “As all of my colleagues have said here today, and you’ll hear others say more of, he truly does stand like a stone wall; he is the rockbound integrity of the United States Congress.”

Biden is also drawing fire from across the political spectrum for praising the “civility” of two other ardent segregationist, Democrats, Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmage.  

“I was in a caucus with James O.Eastland,” Biden told donors at a fundraiser Tuesday, while employing an exaggerated Southern drawl. “He never called me boy; he always called me son.”

“Well, guess what? At least there was some civility,” he continued. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side, and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Both Talmage and Eastland were well known for emphatically opposing integration and civil rights throughout their careers in public office. Eastland became known as the “voice of the white South” for his fierce support of Jim Crow.

Biden’s reference to Eastland and Talmage as an example of bipartisanship is disingenuous and misleading, Republicans warned.  

Throughout his nearly five decades in politics, Biden fondly reminisced about working effectively with every major segregationist who served alongside him in the Senate, according to a Washington Examiner analysis based on a list of key segregation proponents compiled by the Equal Justice Initiative.

“He has lauded South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond — who Biden called ‘one of my closest friends’ — and Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who Biden worked with on legislation to prevent court-ordered desegregation busing,” the Washington Examiner reports. “He has also expressed admiration for Sens. John Stennis, James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge. He has even praised George Wallace, an Alabama governor and segregationist presidential candidate.”

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