Joe Biden Should Apologize to Mitt Romney, Says Ex-Democratic Senator

Former Democratic U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp suggested President Joe Biden should apologize to Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) after controversial remarks that appeared to liken Senate Republicans to segregationists.

Heitkamp was discussing the recent failed effort to pass voting rights legislation in the Senate with Sarah Isgur and Steve Hayes of The Dispatch and was critical of the president's comments.

She served as senator for North Dakota from 2013 to 2019 but lost her reelection bid in the 2018 midterm elections to Republican Kevin Cramer, who was previously the U.S. representative for the state's at-large congressional district.

Isgur asked Heitkamp about the president's comments where he mentioned Eugene "Bull" Connor, who was commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Alabama from 1957 to 1963 and a notorious enforcer of segregation.

Connor was a white supremacist who turned fire hoses and police dogs on civil rights activists.

Heitkamp said that African American voters were a core Democratic constituency and African Americans are "quite aggrieved" at new voting restrictions in states across the U.S.

"I think there was this sense—you've got to be on their side," Heitkamp said. "You've got to make it clear you're on their side. And so whether that was an overstatement, I mean, a lot of Democrats have criticized it as not helpful."

She continued: "I think if Joe Biden had a chance to go back, I think he would call on Mitt Romney. He would call in these other folks."

Heitkamp suggested the White House had misunderstood Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who voted against a change to the rules of the Senate filibuster that Democrats had proposed in order to allow voting rights legislation to progress.

Later in the conversation, Hayes pointed to Romney's previous comments about voting rights and again highlighted the president's remarks referencing Bull Connor.

"If I were Joe Biden today I would call Mitt Romney and I would apologize and I would say, 'I never intended to paint with a broad brushstroke," Heitkamp said.

"'There is a lot of bad stuff going out there, would you agree to help me pull together a commission that's looking at these things from the perspective of getting everybody to vote?'"

Heitkamp suggested that Biden and Romney could work together on the issue of free and fair elections. The Utah senator was opposed to the voting rights legislation passed by the House of Representatives and now stalled indefinitely in the Senate.

In a speech in Atlanta on January 11 in support of the voting rights legislation, Biden asked where the Senate would stand on the issue and said: "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?"

Republicans reacted with outrage to the comments. Romney took to the Senate floor and said Biden had "accused a number of my good and principled colleagues in the Senate of having sinister, even racist inclination."

"So much for unifying the country and working across the aisle," the GOP senator said.

Newsweek has asked the White House for comment.

Composite Image Shows Romney and Biden
A composite photo shows Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and President Joe Biden. Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp has said Biden should apologize to Romney. Getty Images