Jill Biden said she was surprised by Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-Calif.) attacks on her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, during the first Democratic debates last month in an interview with CNN that aired Monday.
In the interview with host Chris Cuomo, Jill Biden spoke about the dramatic moment during the first showdown between 20 Democratic candidates last month. Her husband has been a noted front-runner since he joined the primary race and had until recently mostly moved to ignore his rivals and capitalize on his nationwide goodwill.
“The biggest surprise I think was the debate. I think ― you know, I think probably Kamala was a little bit of a surprise,” Biden said. “You know, I think that they were looking at the past. I mean, the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he’s a racist.”
Harris confronted Biden during the debate last month, lambasting comments the former vice president made where he invoked his work with two segregationists senators decades ago.
“I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said at the time. “But 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.”
Biden later went on to tell Cuomo that she believed voters knew what her husband stood for, asserting that many Americans “didn’t buy it” when Harris moved to attack his track record.
The moment was a breakout opportunity for Harris amid the crowded Democratic field, and she’s seen a notable uptick in support following her debate showing. Biden initially defended himself after the mudslinging, saying his words were taken out of context, but he eventually said this week that he regretted the segregationist remarks.
“Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men whom I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was,” Biden said during a speech in South Carolina last weekend. “I regret it, and I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception maybe I caused anybody.”
The former vice president also elaborated on the attacks during the CNN interview, saying he wasn’t “prepared” for the way Harris came after him.
“I’ve been surprised, not about the attacks, but I’ve been surprised at the intensity sometimes of the attacks, coming from people who know me,” Biden told Cuomo. “It doesn’t make me second-guess, but it makes me decide that ― look, this race is about the future, man. And we can go back and pick everybody’s record apart, if you want to go back 20, 30, 40 years, and take it out of context, because no one knows the context of the moment. And so it’s really easy to distort. It just surprised me a little bit, some of the stuff that’s come out, in terms of the attack lines.”
He added later: “I know this is a marathon.”