Joe Biden isn’t having a good year. The current Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination should be sailing smoothly toward 2020, at least if he’s the great politician liberals claim. Instead, controversy keeps pulling him off course.
The former vice president already faced a scandal after videos and photos of his uncomfortable interactions with women went viral. Those problems deepened after he was accused of inappropriate behavior by a woman in his own party.
As if a harassment scandal wasn’t bad enough, Biden is now facing tough questions about past comments that seem to suggest admiration for racist segregationists. On Saturday, civil rights muckraker-turned-TV host Al Sharpton gave the candidate a chance to explain himself, but it didn’t end well.
Biden’s appearance on “Politics Nation,” Sharpton’s distinctly liberal MSNBC program, should have been a public relations home run.
It was friendly turf, taking place at the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention with “Biden” campaign signs lined up for the cameras. Sharpton tossed out softball questions, basically giving the candidate every chance to walk back his controversial comments.
Instead, Biden seemed to swing and miss.
“This week you got into it about a statement you made about racists and segregationists,” Sharpton said. “Don’t you understand some of the hurt feelings there?”
“It hurts when you talk about ‘boy,’ it means something different to us,” the longtime civil rights activist continued.
He was referring to a comment Biden made several days earlier, in which he boasted about working with known segregationists in Congress. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’” the candidate said at a fundraiser, according to Axios.
Democrats including Cory Booker denounced the comments and called on Biden to apologize. But if Sharpton’s program was where that was supposed to happen, the candidate missed the mark.
“So, but, this is … I do understand the consequence of the word ‘boy,’ but it wasn’t said in any of that context at all,” Biden said to Sharpton with a defensive tone.
Sharpton tried to explain why the comments bothered some black Americans, but Biden interrupted him. “But they called Bobby, they called Teddy Kennedy ‘boy,'” Biden said. “That was the distinction. The reason he called me senator was to demean me more, because I — I mean, uh, son, because he said I’m not even qualified to be in the senate, I’m not old enough, I’m a kid, I’m a kid.”
Wow, Joe, you really nailed that one. How many hours of prep with your public relations team did that take to prepare?
For his part, Sharpton seemed rather unimpressed by the bumbling response. It’s easy to see why: For a longtime politician who is supposed to be the Democrat party’s best hope of defeating Trump, the former vice president seems to be making rookie mistakes.
It’s worth noting that this kind of kid-glove treatment from Sharpton is nearly impossible to imagine being given to a conservative. If a Republican had defended segregationists and made racially insensitive comments, they’d be on the MSNBC chopping block for months.
But Biden is given chance after chance to defend himself simply because he’s a longtime liberal. Yet even with those second and third chances to clarify his statements, the candidate still managed to put his foot in his mouth.
At this point, Joe Biden’s worst enemy is Joe Biden. If conservatives want to hold the White House in 2020, maybe all they need to do is sit back and let the liberal party implode.