WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called a rival in the 2020 presidential campaign, Senator Cory Booker, to try to smooth over tensions late Wednesday night after Mr. Booker said that the former vice president should apologize for his warm comments about segregationist senators.
Mr. Biden made the call after Mr. Booker spent 20 minutes on CNN lambasting his remarks, according to two people familiar with the call. While the tone between the men was conciliatory, the former vice president stood by his remarks Thursday while his allies defended them.
Mr. Biden’s campaign, which has sought to portray itself as a level above the 22 other Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination, urged surrogates to fire back at competitors like Mr. Booker who criticize Mr. Biden by noting that they too have cut deals with Republicans with checkered histories on race issues.
“The point of the story is that you have to be able to work with people, even if they hold positions repugnant to you in order to make some progress,” read Biden campaign talking points that were distributed to surrogates and allies. “Our opponents in this race agree — they’ve worked with Jeff Sessions, Steve King, Cindy Hyde Smith among others across the aisle to do their jobs in Congress.”