Interview Shows Joe Biden Was Right, Segregationist Senator Did Call Ted Kennedy ‘Boy’


Part of former Vice President Joe Biden’s defense of his remarks about segregationist James Eastland was that the reported remarks omitted context about the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a claim that is corroborated by a 2007 interview with Kennedy.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton, Biden complained that Wall Street Journal pool reporter Ken Thomas had omitted key context from his reporting on the remarks, which were made at a fundraiser and were not captured on video. One of the more inflammatory remarks reported was Biden saying “He never called me boy, he always called me son” while imitating Eastland’s accent.

Biden told Sharpton that he wasn’t referencing the racial connotation of the word “boy,” and that the point of his remark was that Eastland would never call him or Kennedy “Senator,” that he called Kennedy “boy” and Biden “son” as a way to diminish them.

A 2007 interview with Kennedy corroborates Biden’s claim. In the interview, Kennedy explains how he “got along well” with Eastland, and relates an anecdote in which the then-Senator did, indeed, call him “boy”:

“Eastland said, I want you to come over, boy. We’ll talk about your subcommittees. I said, That’s fine. When do you want me to come? You come by tomorrow morning at ten, and we’ll talk about your subcommittees. I said, Okay, I’ll come over. We had been working all day and night, what committees I want and what committees I don’t want and why. I had all my staff around, and I finally had my little list.

You sit down here, boy. It’s 10:00. What do you drink, bourbon or scotch? I said, Well, I— Bourbon or scotch!? Scotch, I said finally. And his guy went over and brought in that metal tray.”

Biden has made versions of the same remarks about Eastland in public before, but without the detail about Kennedy. While campaigning for Doug Jones in 2017, he noted how Eastland “never called me senator, he always called me son,” and waxed nostalgic about being able to work with people like Eastland, despite their differences.

And at the 2012 House Democratic Retreat, Biden told another version of the story he told at the Jones rally, but this time said Eastland “never called me Senator or Joe, he didn’t call me sen — he always called me, he always called me ‘young man.'”

In his 2009 farewell speech in the Senate, Biden imitated Eastland’s southern drawl, and spoke about the “deep personal relationships” he developed with Eastland, and other segregationists.

Watch Biden’s remarks to Sharpton above, via MSNBC.

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