Former Vice President Joe Biden has managed to simultaneously be roasted and praised for his performance at the Democratic debate in Houston.
While some supporters believed the 2020 presidential hopeful came out winning Thursday after spending much of the night defending himself from his rivals, many saw Biden’s sometimes incoherent moments in the Democrats’ third presidential debate simply as a disaster.
The 76-year-old did little to ease the concerns of Democrats who have watched his gaffe-filled campaign, as he dodged questions, confused viewers with his sometimes rambling answers, and dealt with former Housing Secretary Julián Castro’s repeated attacks on his age.
On the question of segregation and race in schools, Biden offered a confusing response that set off a social media meltdown.
“What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” he was asked.
His reply included an acknowledgment of “institutional segregation” while proposing tripling the amount of federal money to “poor schools” while making sure that “we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home.”
“Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know quite what to do,” he said.
“Play the radio, make sure that the television- excuse me,” Biden continued, “make sure you have the record player on at night. Make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school- poor background, will hear four million words spoken by the time they get there.”
The “record player” remark sparked a wave of mockery on Twitter.
Record player on at night? Okay Gramps
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 13, 2019
I truly don’t understand wtf Biden is talking about. “Make sure you have the record player on at night”? This is messed up. And also, not an answer to the question.
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) September 13, 2019
JOE SAYS LEAVE THE RECORD PLAYER ON FOR THE KIDS
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) September 13, 2019
.@JoeBiden on how to make up for historically imbedded racism somehow involved the radio and the record player.
— Howard Fineman (@howardfineman) September 13, 2019
Have I missed anything so far? My record player has been on. #DemDebate
— Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) September 13, 2019
Though it wasn’t the attention Biden needed to be getting for his debate performance, the strange remark was not the only one.
His eyebrow-raising comment that “nonviolent” criminals should not be jailed also drew immediate reactions on social media and needed to be walked back by his team later.
“The fact of the matter is that what’s happened is that we’re in a situation now where there are so many people who are in jail and shouldn’t be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is toll — the model has to change. Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” Biden said.
Though the Democrat has proposed eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, it seems his comment was too progressive to be true.
A Biden aide later clarified the statement.
Biden aide says he was talking about non-violent drug offenses https://t.co/y6usmbATp7
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) September 13, 2019
Biden aide to me on his comment that “Nobody should be in jail for a non-violent crime.”
“He was talking about non violent drug offenses”
— Sam Stein (@samstein) September 13, 2019
But the reactions were already pouring in on Twitter.
“Nobody should be in jail for a non-violent crime,” Biden says.
That’s a big statement.
— Tal Kopan (@TalKopan) September 13, 2019
“Nobody in jail should be a non-violent crime,” says Biden in debate. So Manafort should be freed?
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) September 13, 2019
My god, Biden wants to free Manafort!!! https://t.co/wXMJcmdYu8
— Natalie Johnson (@nataliejohnsonn) September 13, 2019
All White Collar prisoners wilk be set free..another freebie offered by these liberals
— 2BlueDots (@garybob52) September 13, 2019
One of Biden’s strangest moments Thursday night, also instantly making the rounds on social media, was an apparent problem with his teeth.
The awkward scene came as he began to respond to a question from ABC News anchor David Muir about gun control.
Surprised Twitter users almost didn’t know how to react.
Nothing funny there.If Biden can’t fix his own teeth how he would fix America?
— YaTwitt (@YaTwitt3) September 13, 2019
It doesn’t matter if Biden’s teeth fell out. His ideas still suck. #DemDebate
— Brexit Stage Left (@brexitonly) September 13, 2019
This guy needs some SUPER POLY GRIP!
— ❌CUPOFCOVFEFE (@onegoodhombre) September 13, 2019
pretty smooth recovery tbh
— depressed Spurs fan (@NBABOT11233281) September 13, 2019
But for all the mockery he received, Biden still found many to come to his defense after what they saw as a cheap shot by Castro.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro asked during a question on healthcare, appearing to take a jab at Biden’s memory and age which drew boos from the audience. “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that.”
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) September 13, 2019
Cheap shot from Castro at Biden for allegedly forgetting what Biden just said two minutes ago.Not cool.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) September 13, 2019
That was a kinda low attack from Castro to keep repeating “you’re forgetting” when Biden clearly wasn’t forgetting what he had said. The real attack there was too obvious.
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) September 13, 2019
Bernie Sanders on Julián Castro’s attack on Joe Biden’s memory: “I will disagree with Joe on our record and our vision for the future. I am not going to go after him personally, that’s not right.” pic.twitter.com/hTnEzGq4oS
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 13, 2019
But in the end, Biden still seemed to be holding on to his front-runner position, even as his critics – and opponents – wonder if he has got what it takes to get to the nomination in one piece.
“There are moments where you listen to Joe Biden and you just wonder. I don’t know,” Sen. Cory Booker told CNN’s Erin Burnett in a post-debate interview.
“I’ve listened to Joe Biden over the years and often felt like there were times that he is going on or meandering in his speech. Look, I want someone that can exit and can energize like we saw in ’08 and ’12. If I believed Joe Biden was that person, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
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