“I want to be clear: I’m not going nuts,” President-elect Joe Biden quipped at a 2019 campaign stop in New Hampshire, after he forgot the location of a speech he had recently given. The politician notably delivered a powerful victory speech after winning the 2020 election, but — nicknamed “Sleepy Joe” by former President Donald Trump — Biden has also been labeled a “gaffe machine” over his almost 50 years in politics due to his countless award moments caught on tape.
Indeed, as Biden himself once said, “You know the thing.” Who can forget, for example, when he introduced former President Barack Obama as “Barack America”? What about the time he called himself an “O’biden Bama Democrat”? The former vice president’s gaffes can come at any time, so you just have to be prepared. To be fair, some of these moments can be traced back to his lifelong stutter, but others (which we’ll focus on) are just classic Biden. His pal and former boss, Obama, only endorsed him after Biden’s remaining challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Why? According to an anonymous Democratic operative, Obama allegedly said, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up” (via Politico). Um, if true, talk about awkward — especially since the Obamas couldn’t be happier over Biden winning the presidency.
There are too many of these awkward moments to choose from, so we decided to give you the Biden Gaffe Greatest Hits from the 21st Century.
Joe Biden's questionable comments about Indian-Americans
In 2006, Joe Biden appeared on the C-Span series, Road to the White House, where a clip of him talking about Indian-Americans went viral for all the wrong reasons. Seen shaking hands with an Indian-American man, then-Senator Biden began discussing his support from that racial demographic. It did not go well.
“I’ve had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India,” Biden said, before adding, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking. Gigantic, gigantic.” Yikes.
Biden’s office issued an immediate statement in order to explain his comments. “The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades. It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle-class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses,” spokesperson Margaret Aitken said (via NBC News). “These families have greatly contributed to the vibrancy of the Indian-American community in Delaware and are making a significant contribution to the national economy as well.”
Joe Biden's 'record player' comment left other candidates worried
During a 2019 Democratic debate, Joe Biden was asked about inequality in schools, race, and how he would “repair the legacy of slavery in our country” (via The New York Times). Biden’s admittedly rambling answer, which included a reference to his deceased first wife and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, seemed to confuse and worry his fellow candidates on the stage. However, it was his comments about how we need to “help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home” that left people shaking their heads.
“We bring social workers into some and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know what — they don’t know quite what to do,” Biden said. “Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player — on at night, make sure that kids hear words.”
Backstage after the debate, candidate Cory Booker questioned Biden’s mental faculties when pressed by CNN’s Erin Burnett (via Fox News). “I think there were a lot of moments where a number of us were looking on the stage when he tends to go on sometimes,” Booker responded. “At one point, he was talking about communities like mine listening to record players. I don’t remember the last time I saw a record player … But there are definitely moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder.”
That time Joe Biden told an immigration activist to vote for Trump
During a 2019 campaign stop in South Carolina, Joe Biden got into a heated exchange with immigration activist and CNN reporter Carlos Rojas over the Obama administration’s record deportations.
Rojas confronted Biden over the federal government’s response to immigration during his time as VP, stating, “The fact is that over those eight years, there were 3 million people that were deported and separated from their families,” in a video posted by USA Today. Biden then immediately cut him off, replying, “You should vote for Trump. You should vote for Trump.” Wait, what?
“No, no. I’m not going to do that,” Rojas responded. Biden then replied, “No matter what happens, somebody who commits murder should be deported,” before stating that there would be no family separation during his presidency. Some audience members shouted, “That’s a lie,” and the crowd began chanting, “Not one more deportation.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Biden underperformed with Latinos during his general election fight over a year later.
Joe Biden also told an environmental activist 'to go vote for someone else'
We now find Joe Biden campaigning in Iowa, where his tense exchange with environmental activist and former Democratic state legislator Ed Fallon quickly went viral. During a meet-and-greet after the event, Fallon told Biden, “I’m going to support you if you win the nomination because we gotta get rid of Trump,” before pushing the former VP on his climate change plan: “We got to stop building and replacing pipelines.”
Not an unreasonable request, right? Well, Biden quickly became agitated and responded with, “You have to go vote for someone else. You’re not going to vote for me in the primary,” while poking Fallon in the chest. Fallon looked taken aback by the comment and replied, “I’m going to vote for you in the general if you treat me right,” to which Biden said, “Yeah, I know. Well, I’m not.” Fallon then asked for a picture and Biden refused since Fallon said he wasn’t supporting him in the Iowa caucus. “Now you believe that Bernie can do something by 2030?” Biden asked. Fallon responded saying he was supporting Tom Steyer.
“I did not expect to be told to leave, to go vote for somebody else, then to be lectured about,” Fallon told a Des Moines KCCI reporter after the event. “It was not appropriate interaction with anybody. I mean, if I’d done that to him, the security would have been all over me.”
Joe Biden: 'Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?'
During the 2020 Democratic primary, a Bernie Sanders campaign surrogate wrote an op-ed in The Guardian, claiming that Joe Biden has “a big corruption problem” due to his ties to the credit card industry “at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans.” In response, Sanders disavowed the op-ed and apologized to Biden. “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way,” Sanders told CBS News. “And I’m sorry that op-ed appeared.”
However, the two continued to trade barbs, with Sanders releasing an ad attacking Biden over his repeated attempts to cut Social Security during his career. So, during a campaign stop in Mason City, Iowa, Biden was confronted by CBS reporter Ed O’Keefe in the press area. “Yesterday, you said you accepted Bernie’s apology, now you’re attacking him,” O’Keefe began. “Why are you doing that? Why wasn’t his apology enough, Mr. Vice President? Why attack Sanders?”
After the last question, Biden turned around and walked back to O’Keefe with a wide-eyed expression. “Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?” Biden said, waving his hands toward O’Keefe and putting his hand on O’Keefe’s shoulder. “You’re getting nervous, man. Calm down, it’s OK!” Biden continued. “He apologized for saying that I was corrupt. He didn’t say anything about whether or not I was telling the truth about Social Security.”
Remember when Joe Biden got in the face of a factory worker?
While campaigning in Michigan in March 2020, Joe Biden toured a Detroit auto plant, where he sparred with a factory worker over gun rights. The clip, provided by Guardian News, began with the worker telling Biden, “You are actively trying to end the Second Amendment,” to which Biden bluntly replied, “You’re full of s**t.” After Biden’s aide quickly attempted to remove him from the situation, he raised his hand at her and told her to “shush.” Oof.
Biden went on to tell the factory worker that he supports the Second Amendment and listed the guns he owns, but added, “Guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapons. I’m not taking your guns away at all. You need 100 rounds?” The worker then claimed that Biden appeared in a “viral video” with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, saying he would indeed to take guns away.
“I did not say that. That’s not true, I did not say that!” Biden fired back, raising his voice. “It’s a viral video like the other ones they’re putting out. It’s simply a lie.” Referring to Biden appearing to get his face and grow louder, the worker said, “This is not okay,” with Biden responding with, “Don’t try me, pal.” When the worker told him, “You’re working for me, man,” Biden said that he wasn’t, adding, “Give me a break, man.”
Wait, did Joe Biden call a voter 'fat'?
In another campaign event held in Iowa prior to the caucuses, Joe Biden got into a verbal altercation with a man that left many wondering if the former VP called a potential voter “fat.” Per a video obtained by CNBC, a retired farmer in the audience grabbed the mic during a Q&A and told Biden he had “two problems” with him: Biden’s age and the suggestion that he got son Hunter Biden a job in Ukraine to sell “access to the president.”
Before the man could finish, Biden fired back, “You’re a d**n liar, man!” The then-candidate appeared to grow increasingly angry, before challenging the man to do pushups and run with him to “check [his] shape.” You know, totally normal campaign event stuff. More words were exchanged until Biden appeared to say, “But look, fat, here’s the deal.” When the man later told Biden he wasn’t voting for him, he replied, “I knew you weren’t, man. You think I’d thought you’d stand up and vote for me? You’re too old to vote for me.”
Biden’s senior advisor Symone Sanders later insisted on Twitter that he’d said “facts,” not “fat,” and suggested the retired farmer had an ulterior motive with his line of questioning, because he was a “self-identified Warren supporter.” She added, “Any assertion VP Biden said a word about the gentleman’s appearance is making this something it is not. In the latter part of the exchange, the VP began to say, ‘Look, facts,’ then said, ‘here’s the deal.”
Joe Biden: 'Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids'
During yet another campaign stop in Iowa in 2019, Joe Biden spoke to a group of Hispanic and Asian voters at an educational town hall hosted by the Asian and Latino Coalition in Des Moines — and had an awkward slip up that some viewed as racist. “We have this notion that somehow if you’re poor you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids — wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids. No, I really mean it, but think how we think about it,” Biden said (via CNN). “They can do anything that anybody else can do, given a shot.”
Biden’s remarks drew condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. “‘Poor’ kids are just as bright and talented as white kids?” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “To quickly dismiss @JoeBiden’s words as a mere ‘slip of the tongue’ is as concerning as what he said. We need to have a real conversation about the racism and sexism behind ‘electability.'” Meanwhile, Andrew Clark, the rapid response director of the Trump campaign, tweeted, “Yikes…have fun mitigating that one.”
However, the Biden campaign said the former VP “misspoke and immediately corrected himself,” then claimed Biden has “spent his life fighting for civil rights and the dignity of all people” (via CNN). “The Trump campaign posting the video without the Vice President’s immediate correction is patently disingenuous.”
Did Joe Biden forget Donald Trump's name?
While speaking to comedian George Lopez and former Republican strategist Ana Navarro on a Zoom call for the “I Will Vote” virtual concert in October 2020, Joe Biden seemingly confused Donald Trump with George W. Bush. After Lopez asked Biden for his pitch to undecided voters and people who planned not to vote, he responded that “the character of the country” was at stake (via The Washington Post), adding, “Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh, are going to find ourselves in position where if uh Trump gets elected uh we are going to be uh, going to be in a different world.”
Trump, who’s had several awkward moments caught on tape himself, immediately jumped on the apparent mix-up, tweeting: “Joe Biden called me George yesterday. Couldn’t remember my name. Got some help from the anchor to get him through the interview. The Fake News Cartel is working overtime to cover it up!” However, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates claimed that he was “addressing George Lopez,” and then blasted Trump for not being able to handle The Washington Post‘s fact-check, which suggested that Biden was simply stuttering (in which case, no big deal).
So, was Biden stuttering, addressing Lopez, or mixing up names? RNC rapid response director Steve Guest claimed, “This isn’t a ‘fact check.’ It’s The Washington Post doing the Biden campaign’s bidding to cover up what Biden actually said. Biden was talking about ‘four more years’ of President Trump and said the name ‘George’ instead. Which explanation makes more sense?”
That time Joe Biden had some issues at a Michigan rally
Months after Joe Biden clinched the nomination to be the Democratic nominee for president, and a day before the 2020 election, Joe Biden’s old boss and bestie, Barack Obama, appeared at a campaign stop in Flint, Mich. to rally Biden supporters (via the Daily Mail). Being the opening act to his former VP had to be strange for Obama, and it seemed it was strange for Biden, as well.
After warming up the crowd for Biden’s remarks, Obama shouted, “‘My friend, the next President of the United States of America, Joe Biden!” Biden then missed his cue, and Obama had to shout it again. Eventually, he came running up to the stage, where he later seemed to struggle over saying the world “healthcare” while speaking to the crowd. “Donald Trump thinks healthcare is a privilege,” Biden said. “Barack and I think it’s a right to have badakathcare.”
The apparent stutter over “healthcare,” of course, should be immediately forgiven. But after Biden finished his speech, he walked towards Obama, who reminded him that he wasn’t wearing his mask amid the pandemic. Biden then returned to the podium to look for it, and after fumbling around for a bit, realized it was in his pocket and put it back on. He then picked up the microphone to say something else, but the mic was disconnected. He placed it back down and followed a waiting Obama off the stage. So much awkward.
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