“What I didn’t want to do was get into that scrum,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in an interview that aired Friday. “I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn’t prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me.”
Harris made headlines at the debate when she zeroed in on Biden’s past opposition to federally mandated busing to integrate schools, revealing in a powerful anecdote that she herself was bused as a child.
She also took aim at Biden’s previous remarks about his work as a senator with segregationist lawmakers Herman Talmadge of Georgia and James O. Eastland of Mississippi.
Noting that he shared “some civility” with his colleagues, Biden said Eastland “never called me ‘boy,’” a comment which struck critics as racially tone-deaf.
Still, Biden told Cuomo he didn’t see Harris’ condemnation as a real setback in his campaign, boasting that he has since received endorsements from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“People know who I am,” he said.
Though he said he was unconcerned by a drop in the polls, a Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted in the days after the debate found that the number of black voters supporting Biden was cut in half, compared to a similar poll from earlier in June.
Despite having called out Biden’s stance on busing, Harris appears to have backpedaled on the issue. On Wednesday, she characterized it as a decision for local school districts rather than the federal government.