2020 Presidential Candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) recently had a livestreamed interview with Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, and backed Costa into a corner to admit that he quoted the Vermont senator out of context when confronting Sanders about public school desegregation through busing.
In September of 1974 — six years prior to Sanders’ election as mayor of Burlington, Vermont — the eventual 2020 presidential candidate was quoted in a local paper in Middlebury, Vermont (PDF link) saying that busing “creates racial hostility where it did not previously exist.”
“The government doesn’t give a shit about black people,” Sanders quipped at the time.
Robert Costa, a senior political correspondent for The Washington Post, conducted the paper’s most recent interview with Sanders. Roughly 42 minutes into the interview, Costa asked Sanders about his quote about busing, but left out the last half of the quote. Sanders pushed him to provide the quote in full context.
SANDERS: What else did I say there?
COSTA: Tell me.
SANDERS: No, you’ve got it there, read it. Read the whole quote.
COSTA: I don’t have the whole quote.
SANDERS: The whole quote is, ‘the federal government doesn’t give a shit about African Americans in this country–‘
COSTA: Well, that is true. That’s why I didn’t include it.
Notably, the exchange was left out of Costa’s write-up of the interview with Sanders. The only mention of the exchange came when Costa wrote that the Vermont senator “defended his own comments about busing from decades ago.”
Aside from the exchange and its omission in the Post‘s official write-up, it could be argued that The Washington Post has taken an unusually combative stance against Sanders compared to the rest of the Democratic field. Just a day after Sanders officially entered the presidential race, the Post‘s team of columnists took turns taking jabs at Sanders, dismissing both his millions of supporters and the millions of dollars Sanders raised in his campaign’s first 24 hours.
The concept of busing was indeed racially divisive for white suburban parents not accustomed to sending their kids to predominantly black schools in the inner city. As Slate reported in 2014, then-President Richard Nixon took advantage of racial tensions in the U.S. (part of the notorious Southern Strategy of pitting working-class whites and blacks against each other) to put people fundamentally opposed to integration in charge of the office in Washington tasked with implementing integration:
Though nearly two decades had passed since Brown v. Board, school desegregation was really just getting started, and the buses had barely left the lot when America elected Richard Nixon, who, as a part of his Southern Strategy, had campaigned against forced busing and had brokered a deal with South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, trading convention delegates in exchange for a promise to stem the tide of integration as much as possible. Once in office, Nixon appointed anti-integration staffers to the federal agency charged with enforcing integration. And when the departure of Justice Abe Fortas left a vacancy on the Supreme Court, the president told his attorney general that the replacement should be “a conservative Southerner” who was “against busing, and against forced housing integration. Beyond that he can do what he pleases.”
Busing is back in the national conversation after Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over his record of passing legislation to undercut busing during the second of two initial Democratic presidential candidates. While Biden has apologized for his comments complimenting segregationist senators, he has yet to apologize for his record of opposing public school integration through busing.
(Featured image: Screengrab via Facebook Live)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.
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