Jill Biden After Kamala Harris Ambushed Joe at Debate: 'Go F*** Yourself' First Lady Jill Biden as she departs Washington, DC on May 5, 2021. (Carlos Barria /AFP via Getty Images)
By Eric Mack | Wednesday, 19 May 2021 03:27 PM
Kamala Harris' infamous busing ambush of Joe Biden during the first Democratic primary debate in 2019 was met with vulgar responses from both the future president and first lady, according to a new book which details the icy early exchanges between Biden and his eventual running mate.
Harris, looking to solidify a spot at the head of the massive Democratic pack, attacked Biden's record for not supporting federally mandated busing before dramatically revealing that she was bused to school as a little girl. While Harris began by saying "I do not believe you are a racist," her jab was meant to solidify an image of Biden as someone who'd cordially dealt with pro-segregationist lawmakers in the past and was out of touch with the current cultural shift.
The hit seemed to catch Biden off guard.
"Well, that was some f***ing bulls***," Biden said to competitor Pete Buttigieg on stage during a commercial break, according to a Politico excerpt of Edward-Isaac Dovere's book "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump."
Jill Biden had an even more personal response to Harris' debate line:
"[Jill Biden] couldn't bear to watch a woman who called herself a friend of her son's —although Beau was not her biological child, she'd raised him his entire life as if he were — try to tear her husband down, to score a point at a debate.
"'With what he cares about, what he fights for, what he's committed to, you get up there and call him a racist without basis?" she said on a phone call with close supporters a week later, according to multiple people on the call. 'Go f*** yourself.'"
The Biden administration downplayed the book's report of the vulgarities as retellings that might be "inaccurate," according to Politico Playbook on Wednesday.
"Many books will be written on the 2020 campaign, with countless retellings of events — some accurate, some inaccurate," Michael LaRosa, the first lady's spokesman, said in a statement. "The first lady and her team do not plan to comment on any of them."
Politico reported the White House and the Vice President's Office both declined to comment.
The debate remarks that set off the firestorm — that could have potentially cost Harris her spot on the ticket with Biden — were detailed extensively in the book, including the arguments over whether or not to use the attack, how to execute it, and, ultimately, how Biden and Harris were able to overcome the moment to forge a unified campaign.
After back-and-forths with her campaign and debate prep teams, Harris delivered this stunning rebuke of Biden:
"'I'm going to now 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 — 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. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me."
Biden's expletive-laden reaction to the jab was reportedly never revealed because his campaign advisers initially feared it would be a nail in his campaign's coffin – despite their pretense at being ready to take hard punches from the likes of Harris and the other Democrat challengers.
"He's a front-runner," campaign staffer Kate Bedingfield said then, the book recounted. "People were going to take swings at him, trying to take swings at him, trying to score points. It's a debate. We understand that."