Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has a history of gaffes, Thursday night told a group of mostly minority voters in Iowa that “poor kids” are just as bright as “white kids.”
Biden, who has been leading in national and early state polling for the Democratic presidential nomination, was speaking on the subject of education at a town hall in Des Moines hosted by the Asian and Latino Coalition.
“We should challenge students in these schools that have advanced placement programs in these schools,” Biden said. “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.”
After a brief pause, he added, “Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids, no, I really mean it, but think how we think about it.”
His remarks prompted a stir on social media Thursday night, with many focusing on the equivalence he drew, whether intentionally, between poor children and minority children.
President Donald Trump’s campaign highlighted a video clip from the event on its “War Room” account on Twitter. In a separate tweet, the campaign’s rapid response director, Andrew Clark, wrote: “Yikes. . . have fun mitigating that one.”
In a statement Friday, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said Biden “misspoke and immediately corrected himself during a refrain he often uses to make the point that all children deserve a fair shot, and children born into lower-income circumstances are just as smart as those born to wealthy parents.”
She also fired back at the Trump campaign for having promoted the video.
“As we approach the two year anniversary of Trump calling neo-Nazis and Klansmen ‘very fine people,’ Donald Trump is desperate to change the subject from his atrocious record of using racism to divide this country,” Bedingfield said, referencing Trump’s comments following the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville in 2017 between self-proclaimed white nationalists and protesters.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, another Democratic White House hopeful, also sought to draw attention to Biden’s comments – as well as his campaign’s response.
“To quickly dismiss @JoeBiden’s words as a mere ‘slip of the tongue’ is as concerning as what he said,” de Blasio said on Twitter. “We need to have a real conversation about the racism and sexism behind ‘electability.’ ”
Thursday was not the first time Biden’s comments on race have prompted scrutiny.
In February 2007, on the day he launched his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Biden found himself defending comments made a week earlier in an interview with the New York Observer about then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
In the interview, he called Obama “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Biden issued a statement that day, saying: “I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone. That was not my intent and I expressed that to Sen. Obama.”
A Monmouth University poll released Thursday showed Biden leading the Democratic field in Iowa, with 28 percent of possible 2020 Democratic caucus voters. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., placed second, with 19 percent support, up from 7 percent in April.