The Worst Things Joe Biden Has Ever Said

When you're the President of the United States, your job description is multifaceted and complex. Despite having only 10 fingers, you must have them in about 20 different pies: foreign and domestic policy, infrastructure, federal law, the economy, the workforce, and so many more aspects of running the country all fall under your purview. And this is to say nothing of attempting to get the two starkly ideologically opposed factions of the U.S. Congress to agree on anything resembling productive legislation, which must be less like herding cats than herding eels.

When it comes to facing the public, though, your most important job is saying words. Words of decisiveness, words of comfort, words of authority — so many words. Each president has a distinct and varied degree of skill in this regard. Our current chief executive, Joseph R. Biden, is a man of many words, but as an 80-year-old guy with the most taxing job in the world, there have been more than a few times during which the ol' word processor between his ears has gone on the fritz, and some truly jaw-dropping things have escaped his lips. from the head-scratching to the racially insensitive to the profane, here are some of the worst gaffes our self-described "gaffe machine" of a president has ever committed.

Humiliating a college student at a campaign event

At a February 2020 campaign event at Georgia's Mercer University, Joe Biden responded to a question from student Madison Moore about his recent, disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses and why voters should give him a shot in the general election. 

Perhaps Biden was still a bit sore about his loss. After acknowledging that it was a good question, he put Moore on the spot, asking if she had ever caucused. When she tentatively nodded yes, Biden shot back, "No, you haven't. You're a lying dog-faced pony soldier."

Perhaps surprisingly, Biden has used this vaguely offensive, borderline-nonsensical descriptor before, as noted by Vox. At an event just a few months earlier, he declared himself to be no "lying dog-faced pony soldier" when accused of not being truthful about the Affordable Care Act. He has said that it's a reference to a John Wayne movie, but the president may be fuzzy on this, as nobody has been able to ascertain which one. Speaking with The Washington Post, Moore was understandably taken aback. "I read an article [in which] he said [the Iowa loss] was a punch to the gut, and I'm not one to just push on wounds," she said. "I'm not trying to humiliate anyone." If Biden was trying to make a funny, it absolutely did not land. Perhaps the maybe-John Wayne reference was just lost on the audience full of college students.

Questioning the Blackness of Black Trump voters

While on the campaign trail in May 2020, Joe Biden took part in a spirited conversation with radio host Charlamagne Tha God (pictured above) on his Breakfast Club show. The then-candidate went on at length about his plans for prison reform, his intent to seriously consider Black female running mates (which, of course, panned out), and his consideration of marijuana decriminalization. Biden closed out the discussion with a promise to return to continue the conversation, then — with a wide grin — offered this parting shot: "I'll tell ya, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or [Donald] Trump, then you ain't Black!"

To his credit, Charlamagne completely brushed off the remark, which predictably prompted just a bit of blowback from the online community. Later that week, Biden jumped on a phone call with the U.S. Black Chambers, a national organization of Black-owned businesses, to walk the remark about a mile back, saying, "I shouldn't have been such a wise guy ... I'm prepared to put my record against [Trump's]. That was the bottom line, and it was, it was really unfortunate. I shouldn't have been so cavalier" (via CNBC).

Cursing at a reporter on a hot mic

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy is known for being just the slightest bit combative when asking questions to Joe Biden or members of his press corps, and this is not limited to pointed questions. Doocy can play Doctor Obvious with the best of them, as evidenced by a question he slipped in under the wire at the conclusion of a January 2022 press conference. As his fellow journos were exiting the room, Doocy piped up with a final query: "Will you take questions on inflation, then? Do you think inflation is a political liability [going into] the mid-terms?" Biden responded in a soft mutter, apparently unaware his mic was still on, with withering sarcasm: "No, it's a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bi***."

Doocy later addressed the president's diss while appearing on Sean Hannity's show, saying that Biden had called him about an hour afterward to tell him it was nothing personal and apologize. "He cleared the air, and I appreciate it," Doocy told Hannity (via CBS News). "We had a nice call." Doocy later laughed off the insult with a remarkably good-natured and humorous response to the actual substance of Biden's remark, saying, "Nobody has fact checked him yet and said it's not true."

A little bit of racially insensitive phrasing, part one

Joe Biden may be the first man to serve as vice president under a Black chief executive, but he is also a very old white guy. As such, he is known to put his foot in his mouth early and often when talking about people of color. Case in point: Biden's speech on Veteran's Day 2021, in which he invoked the great pitcher Satchel Paige, who began in the Negro Leagues before following Jackie Robinson into the majors. Now, the name by which those early leagues are referred to is a historical fact, but Biden stumbled egregiously over the phrase, saying: "I've adopted the attitude of the great Negro — at the time — pitcher in the Negro Leagues [who] went on to become a great pitcher in the pros, in the Major League Baseball, after Jackie Robinson. His name was Satchel Paige..."

One could certainly make the argument that Biden simply attempted to call an audible on using the phrase "Negro Leagues" while actively in the middle of reading words off a teleprompter and that he did not actually intend to refer to Paige as a "great Negro." The fact remains that the moment only represents one of many examples of extremely awkward, racially insensitive phrasing on Biden's part and that there are ... well, just far more examples than there should be.

A little bit of racially insensitive phrasing, part two

During the Democratic primary in August 2019, Joe Biden was taking part in a town hall hosted by the Asian & Latino Coalition. For the past couple of months, he had been facing intense criticism for remarks he had made earlier that summer, in which he touted his ability to work with segregationists while serving in the Senate in the '70s. As such, one would think that choosing his words carefully would have been at the forefront of his mind. This was not the case.

Attempting to make a point about racial inequity in the American educational system, 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." Immediately realizing what had just come out of his mouth, he then tried to backtrack, saying, "Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids — no I really mean it, but think how we think about it." Obviously, this was pounced upon by the press, forcing Biden to address his boneheaded error at a subsequent forum on gun violence. "Look, I misspoke," he said. "On the spot, I explained it. At that very second, I explained it. And so, the fact of the matter is that I don't think anybody thinks that I meant anything other than what I said I meant" (via Politico).

A little bit of racially insensitive phrasing, part three

It's easy to forget that before Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his 2008 running mate and eventual vice president, Biden himself was mounting a presidential campaign. (It was not his first: A 1988 campaign ended after only three months.) In February 2007, The New York Observer reported on a gathering held for a few journalists at a Delaware diner, during which Biden was attempting to outline the sharp contrasts between himself and the other leading candidates: Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. He reserved much of his scorn for Clinton and Edwards, apparently not seeing Obama as much of a threat. About the future president, he had this to say: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

The problems here are obvious, but Obama (who is famously more eloquent when half-asleep than Biden is on his best day) took the comment in stride. According to CNN, he later expressed his doubt that Biden intended any offense, and remarked, "He called me [to apologize]. I told him it wasn't necessary. We have got more important things to worry about."

A little bit of racially ... well, you get the idea

Going back even further, Biden has perhaps never made more of a head-scratching, own-foot-shooting public remark than he did in 2006, as he was gearing up for his presidential campaign. An episode of the C-SPAN series "Road to the White House" captured Biden meeting and greeting supporters, one of which was an Indian gentleman. Boasting his strong support among the Indian population, Biden said, "I've had a great relationship. In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans, moving from India." So far, so good. He then continued: "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

Then-Biden spokeswoman Margaret Aitken bent over backward trying to explain that Biden's remark had to do with the influx of working-class Indian-Americans to his home state, and Biden himself perplexingly told MSNBC that it was meant as a compliment, according to CBS News. Speaking with that outlet, U.S.-India Political Action Committee executive director Supriya Christopher hand-waved the remark, saying simply, "For anybody who's been in office that long, I'd hope he'd speak extemporaneously."

Calling the pandemic a tad early

When future historians discuss the first half of the 21st century, there will be a big, fat, bold line dividing two distinct time periods: before and after March 2020. That is when the United States, along with the rest of the world, discovered what kind of havoc can be wrought when a flu-like virus with no cure and no vaccine reaches the level of a pandemic. Since then, and despite the introduction of safe, effective vaccines in 2021, the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has killed more than one million people in the U.S. alone, according to the World Health Organization.

Ever since the virus first reared its ugly head, there has been a myriad of voices — politicians, celebrities, random people on social media — attempting to downplay its deadliness, discredit the measure by which it can be mitigated, and insist that it could simply be ignored. Unfortunately, Joe Biden echoed those voices during a September 2022 appearance on "60 Minutes," in which he said, "The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lotta work on it ... but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing." In the seven months afterward, COVID continued to infect and kill thousands of Americans, proving that no matter how badly Biden or anyone else wants to believe it, the pandemic was decidedly not over.

A failed introduction, part one

Shortly before the 2008 election, then-VP candidate Joe Biden was where one would have expected him to be: on the campaign trail, making stump speeches, courting voters, and name-checking the local politicians who showed up to offer their support. It was this last part that resulted in a big old fat gaffe during a stop in Missouri. Reading from a sheaf of notes, Biden said, "I'm also told that, uh ... Chuck Graham, State Senator, is here. Chuck — stand up, Chuck, let 'em see you!" There was just one slight problem: Graham, a paraplegic, was not exactly capable of complying, as visually evidenced by his wheelchair.

Biden realized his ridiculous mistake immediately. "Oh — God love ya, what am I talking about?" he wondered aloud, along with everyone else present. For his part, Graham handled the slip-up with incredible grace. "It happens all the time," he told Politico after the event. "It still happens to me after 12 years [in state politics]. It doesn't bother me a bit." It's a little tough to believe that Graham had repeatedly been asked to stand over all those years, but there you have it.

A failed introduction, part two

In September 2022, Joe Biden was visiting Indiana and spoke at a conference on hunger, nutrition, and health. To open the conference, Biden gave a shout-out to the bipartisan lawmakers who had, in 2021, introduced the legislation to convene the conference. Among them was U.S. representative Jackie Walorski, whom Biden attempted to single out in the crowd. "I want to thank all of you here for including bipartisan elected officials like Representative McGovern, Senator Braun, Senator Booker, Representative — Jackie, are you here? Where's Jackie?" Unfortunately, the president had failed to recollect the highly relevant fact that Walorski, along with two of her staffers, had been killed in a car crash not even two months prior.

At the time of the event, the Biden Administration had even issued a statement noting that she had served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus and said the team was looking forward to the upcoming conference that she had helped bring about. In the aftermath of the gaffe, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to explain it away by saying that Walorski had been "on [Biden's] mind, she had been top of mind for the president."

Cursing at the constituency

For some conservatives, the idea that Joe Biden, and Barack Obama before him, are out to take all the guns away (as if the president even has that power) is a tried and true talking point. Such talking points must be incredibly frustrating to have to continue to refute, over and over, on a near-daily basis — and Biden is simply not the type of guy to hide his frustration. While he was on the campaign trail in 2020, he was touring an auto plant in Detroit, Michigan when he was confronted by a hard-hatted worker who accused him point-blank of "actively trying to end our Second Amendment right." Biden's response was swift and to the point: "You're full of s***."

As the man continued to protest, Biden proclaimed himself to be a supporter of the Second Amendment and rattled off a laundry list of firearms that he himself owned. Undeterred, the man angrily queried why Biden said he was going to "take our guns away," a statement he had supposedly seen Biden make in a "viral video." Biden, of course, never said any such thing, and he told the man so repeatedly (and even more angrily). After another few seconds of tense back-and-forth over whether Biden intended to illegalize AR-15-style assault weapons, Biden seemed to realize that he was not being taken at his word. "Give me a break," he said, "Don't be such a horse's a**."

Way too much information

In April 2012, then-President Obama was preparing to face off against Mitt Romney in the presidential election. Joe Biden was giving an address at NYU in which he attempted to contrast the president's foreign policy with the Republican candidate's, implying that Romney's approach was outdated while himself invoking the decades-old words of a former president. "Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt," Biden said. "'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' End of quote." He then delivered, with a perfectly straight face, what can only be described as the punchline: "I promise you, the president has a big stick." Biden waited a beat, then repeated, with that same deadpan facial expression, "I promise you."

Obviously, Biden did not intend the double entendre, and the reason for the snickers coming from the audience was likely completely lost on him. Business Insider's Sophie Kleeman, who was in attendance, tweeted that Biden later proceeded to double down on the slip, describing Obama as having a "backbone like a ramrod." NBC News' Josh Lederman was also present, and he tweeted that Biden at least managed to drop a little of what was, hopefully, self-aware humor into his speech. "Everybody slips," he said. "I never do ... but everybody slips."