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Former vice-presidents remarks prompt criticism from left and right amid Democrats history of gaffes
Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, found his record on race under scrutiny again on Friday after a gaffe on the campaign trail.
We should challenge students in these schools, the former vice-president said during a speech to the Asian & Latino Coalition group in Des Moines, Iowa. We have this notion that somehow if youre poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.
After a pause, Biden added: Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids, no, I really mean it, but think how we think about it.
The remarks prompted criticism from left and right.
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York and rival Democratic candidate for president, tweeted: Poor kids are just as bright and talented as white kids? To quickly dismiss @JoeBidens 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.
Donald Trumps re-election campaign also swooped, insisting this was not a gaffe but rather part of a pattern of racially tone-deaf remarks. The president himself told reporters: Joe Biden is not playing with a full deck. This is not somebody you can have as your president. But if he got the nomination, Id be thrilled.
The Biden campaign tried to clear up the mess. Kate Bedingfield, his deputy campaign manager, said he clearly misspoke and immediately corrected himself. Trump, she added, was desperate to change the subject from his atrocious record of using racism to divide this country.
Biden, 76, already has a long history of verbal blunders. Earlier on Thursday, he referred to Theresa May as Margaret Thatcher, the second time he has recently confused the two former British prime ministers. At last weeks Democratic primary debates, he urged viewers to visit a website that does not exist.
Gaffes of that nature can be laughed off, but on race he is in more treacherous waters. In 2007 he described the presidential candidate Barack Obama as the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
His past policies on school bussing and criminal justice are also under attack, but Biden remains popular with older African American voters.