Joe Biden says his support was "a big mistake" of tough-on-crime drug legislation three decades ago that disproportionately affected black Americans.
In remarks at a Washington, D.C., breakfast honoring Martin Luther King's birthday, the former vice president — first elected to public office the year after King's assassination — said more was expected of him, The New York Times reported.
He said he particularly regretted backing a bill that created different legal standards for powdered cocaine and street crack cocaine, the Times reported.
"It was a big mistake that was made," Biden said of the measure, which was criticized as disproportionately affecting black Americans. "We were told by the experts that 'crack, you never go back,' that the two were somehow fundamentally different. It's not. But it's trapped an entire generation."
Biden, who as a senator helped write the 1994 crime bill now cited as having led to an era of mass incarceration, the Times reported, also conceded he "may not have always gotten things right" in regard to criminal justice.
According to the Times, Biden's remarks at the event, which was hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton, signaled a move to head off criticism of his past policy decisions — and make clear he is seriously considering a presidential bid and recognizes the hurdles facing him in an increasingly progressive party.