Jill Biden said 'go f--- yourself' during a call with supporters after a debate where Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden's record on race, book says

Jill Biden said 'go f--- yourself' during a call with supporters after a debate where Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden's record on race, book says
President Joe Biden (r) and first lady Jill Biden.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
  • Jill Biden is said to have exploded after a tense 2019 debate between her husband and Kamala Harris.
  • Biden said "Go f--- yourself" on a call with supporters, the new book "Battle for the Soul" says.
  • Harris blasted Joe Biden over his record on racial justice and school busing.

An incensed Jill Biden vented "Go f--- yourself" after a June 2019 Democratic presidential debate in which Kamala Harris questioned Joe Biden's record on race, according to an excerpt of The Atlantic's Edward-Isaac Dovere's forthcoming book, titled "Battle for the Soul."

"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?" Biden said on a call with "close supporters" about a week after the contentious debate, based on an excerpt of the book that was published Wednesday in Politico Magazine.

"Go f--- yourself," Jill Biden added.

The first lady's press secretary, Michael LaRosa, did not deny that she made the explicit remark.

"Many books will be written on the 2020 campaign, with countless retellings of events - some accurate, some inaccurate," LaRosa told Politico Playbook in a statement. "The First Lady and her team do not plan to comment on any of them."


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Harris and her team decided to land a strategic punch on Joe Biden in the debate to boost her fundraising and standing in the polls as 2019's second fundraising quarter drew to a close.

At that point in the race, Biden was facing scrutiny over his long and complicated record on racial-justice issues including school busing and criminal justice - a news cycle partly driven by the opposition research work of Harris' team, according to Dovere's book.

Right before the debate, Biden garnered controversy for comments he made at a New York City fundraiser fondly remembering the days of "civility" in the Senate when he worked with people he didn't agree with, including two Democratic senators who supported segregation.

"I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son,'" Biden said. "Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished."


Harris, who is biracial, confronted Biden at the debate, saying: "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 it's personal and 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."

Harris then hit Biden over his controversial record on school busing.

"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," she said. "That little girl was me. So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats."

Biden responded: "It's a mischaracterization of my position across the board. I do not praise racists. That is not true." He also cited his time working as a public defender for the cause of civil rights before becoming a senator.

After the debate ended, then-candidate Biden leaned to his right and said, "Well, that was some f---ing bullshit," to his fellow 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg, now his secretary of transportation, Dovere wrote, citing people he said were told of the remarks afterward.


Dovere's book, "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump," which gives an inside account of the 2020 Democratic primaries and Biden's path to the nomination, has a May 25 release date.