Pelosi, Congressional Black Caucus members, back Biden amid controversy over comments on segregationist senators

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended former Vice President Joe Biden during her weekly press briefing on Thursday and indicated that his fellow 2020 contenders focused on something that wasn't "central" to the presidential election.

Her press briefing followed controversy over Biden's mentioning that he was able to work with segregationist senators. The former VP copped some friendly fire from multiple 2020 contenders, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who called for an apology.

In the wake of the criticism, Pelosi described Biden as "authentic" when speaking to reporters.

"He has lived his life, he considers certain things a resource that he has worked across the aisle, that's what he was saying,"

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Noting that she was proud of all her party's candidates, Pelosi implied that spending time on that issue might be a distraction. "To spend time on an issue like this -- which is important, but it's not central to what the election is about," she told reporters.

She went on to claim that the central issue in the election was economic well-being for working Americans. Later in her comments, she seemed to suggest that economic issues were better for connecting with voters whereas the issue with Biden was more of an intellectual disagreement that wouldn't resonate as well.

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All of the Democratic candidates had their own "specialties" and could talk "strategically" about their vision, Pelosi said. "But all of that is up here -- the vision, the knowledge, the strategic thinking. Heart to heart, where they connect with the American people [is] assuring them that they have an understanding [of] their hopes and dreams ... that's what the election will be about."

Pelosi then pivoted, taking the chance to launch a broadside at President Trump.

"We can have this discussion here all we want while the president is calling the attack on our Democracy a 'hoax,'" she said.

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Pelosi's defense of the former VP came after members of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus also came to Biden's defense.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., pointed to his history working with Strom Thurmond, the populist firebrand famous for his defense of segregation and opposition to the civil rights movement, and said: "you don’t have to agree with people to work with them."

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., also defended Biden, according to Politico.

“I disagree with the overwhelming items that have come out of the mouth of Donald J. Trump. But we managed to work together with his administration to enact historic criminal justice reform,” Jeffries said.

“I think we here in the House Democratic Caucus have ourselves taken the position that sometimes you have to work with the opposition to the extent they’re in power without compromising your values if you can get things done.”

The comments came after Biden, on Wednesday, refused to back down from his comments and pushed back on Booker's call for him to apologize for his comments about segregationists.

“Cory should apologize,” Biden said when asked about the issue. “He knows better. Not a racist bone in my body. I've been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period.”