This post has been updated.
It took a while to leak, but it seems the most interesting thing that happened in a star-studded dinner at the SkyBridge Alternatives, or SALT, Conference in May was a spat between former Vice President Joe Biden and activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. At the private event, former GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush asked Biden why he didn’t run for president. Biden then went into an explanation of his decision and how much it was affected by the death of his son, Beau Biden.
The former vice president reportedly got emotional during the answer, according to Fox Business Network. “I’m sorry,” Biden said as the room grew quiet. “I’ve said enough.”
That’s when Ackman, one of the most controversial men in Wall Street, decided it would be a good time to speak up: “Why? That’s never stopped you before.” Biden then reportedly turned to someone who was next to him and leveled what Ackman must surely consider to be one of the worst insults: “Who is this asshole?”
Whether Biden got his answer or not is unclear, but the former vice president quickly ripped into the founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, who is best known for his insistence that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme. “Look, I don’t know who you are, wiseass, but never disrespect the memory of my dead son,” Biden reportedly said. Ackman then apparently tried to utter some sort of apology, but Biden wasn’t having it: “Just shut the hell up.”
A spokesman for Ackman disagreed with “the idea that there was an argument or altercation between Joe Biden and Bill Ackman,” but he didn’t deny the exchange between the two had taken place.
At least some of the people who talked to Fox Business Network about the exchange say it shows how 74-year-old Biden still has the stamina and political instincts to run for the presidency.
Update, June 30, 2017: On Monday, New York Magazine reported that four attendees at the dinner provided a very different, and more genteel, version of the event. The article also quoted Ackman and organizers of the dinner disputing Fox Business Network’s version of the incident. No official statement has been issued by Biden or others involved in the exchange to clarify exactly what was said.