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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) admitted that President Biden perhaps went “too far” in his racially charged Tuesday speech linking Republicans opposed to his party’s voting rights bill with prominent segregationists like Bull Connor and George Wallace.
“Perhaps the President went a little too far in his rhetoric,” Durbin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday. “Some of us do, but the fundamental principles and values at stake are very similar.”
Tapper was asking Durbin about a controversial speech made by the president on Wednesday in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he attacked Republicans by accusing them of being the same as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Alabama politician Bull Connor, and Alabama Governor George Wallace, all of whom were Democrats.
“So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered?” Biden said during remarks from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
Biden’s speech immediately drew the ire of Republicans, some of whom pointed out that Biden has previously praised George Wallace and bragged about receiving his support.
“How profoundly, profoundly unpresidential,” Republican Senate Minority Leader McConnell said about the speech. “Look, I’ve known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.”
McConnell also slammed Biden for invoking the Civil War “to demonize Americans who disagree with him” and pointed out that the president compared “a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors.”
MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton also blasted Biden’s speech, calling it a “you’re going to hell” speech rather than one that would get voters’ support.
Additionally, Biden’s push to suspend the filibuster to push through the voting rights bill, which was highlighted in the speech, has failed to sway Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema whose vote he must have in order to do so. Sinema’s office said Wednesday her position supporting the filibuster has not changed.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Durbin’s remark.
Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report