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A Guide to Some of the Cringiest Things Said by Democratic Candidates This Week

Joe Biden looks like he wants to say something that he should probably definitely keep to himself.

It’s been a big week for weird comments from the campaign trail! Here are some of the worst:

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All the “My Wife” Guys

The New York Times ran an interview with 21 Democratic presidential candidates. Published as a series of interactive videos, there were a lot of cringey moments, as you might expect in an interview where candidates have to swing spontaneously and on camera between questions about their favorite comfort food and their thoughts on Israel. John Hickenlooper had trouble saying the word “farting”–that was a cringey contender. But ultimately, the most awkward part of the interview was all the male candidates who named their wives as their heroes. Because it was a lot of them.

When asked to name their hero, a ridiculous number of the male candidates (Delaney, Moulton, Inslee, O’Rourke, and Bullock) said their wife. Even more named other family members. Those who named political heroes (those who answered with a personal hero like “wife” were asked for a political follow-up answer) weren’t much more original. Six said Lincoln, three said Theodore Roosevelt, and two said FDR.

Not only is naming your wife (without actually using her name, btw) a totally unoriginal and clearly test audience-shopped answer, but it’s patronizing as hell–especially when only two candidates, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, named women as their political heroes: Shirley Chisholm and Harriet Tubman, respectively. It really emphasizes the ways in which we tend to think of women as being confined to the domestic sphere. Sure, they can be the hero of that arena, but they can’t break through.

Joe Biden

Biden declined to participate in the NYT interviews, but that didn’t stop him from saying some stupid stuff this week. First, at a fundraiser Tuesday, he reminisced about the good ol’ days when outspoken racists and well-meaning (i.e. cowardly) white people afraid to offend those racists could work together in harmony. Talking about late Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, both of whom were aggressively against desegregation, Biden said that Talmadge was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew.” He also said Eastland used to call him “son,” rather than “boy,” which makes sense, since racists tend not to use racist epithets toward other white people.

“Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done,” Biden continued. “We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Oof. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Biden responded today to Cory Booker’s call for him to apologize.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity,” Booker said in a statement. “I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.”

“Frankly,” he added, “I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”

When asked if he was going to apologize, Biden said “there’s not a racist bone in my body,” a favorite refrain of people refusing to look too closely at the way their words and actions affect people of color. He also said Cory Booker should apologize to him.

Because yes, how dare Booker try to explain how racist-boneless Biden’s words might have had some hurtful connotations he wasn’t aware of. How dare Booker expect him to listen.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders sent out a Very Bad Tweet this week.

It appears that Sanders was responding to a quote in that article from the founder of centrist think tank Third Way. But by quote tweeting the article, it makes it seem like he’s coming after Elizabeth Warren, which is not just a bad look, but also baffling.

Marianne Williamson

If we have to name a winner of the Worst Comment of the Week, though, that title probably has to go to Marianne Williamson, who decided to rebrand herself from the image of “Which candidate is she again?” to “Oh, right, the anti-vaxxer candidate.”

Williamson went on The View to clarify and say she’s not anti-vaccine, she just, like, doesn’t trust Big Brother.

Funny story about calling vaccines “Orwellian” …

Anyway, those are just some of the facepalmy things said by candidates this week and it’s only Thursday. It’s also only 502 days until the 2020 general election.

(image: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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