Former vice president Joe Biden was in Seattle this weekend raising some money. And at a fundraiser at the home of a leader in the Seattle gay rights community, Biden suggested that as recently as 2014 homophobic comments were socially acceptable. Talking to around 50 guests at the home of public relations executive Roger Nyhus, Biden said that if someone at a business meeting in Seattle “made fun of a gay waiter” five years ago, people would have just let it slide, according to a pool report. The comment got some pushback from the highly supportive crowd. “Not in Seattle,” some in the crowd said.
Biden made the comment as he talked about the progress that has been made in gay rights in just a few years. If someone made that type of homophobic comment today, “that person would not be invited back,” Biden said. Despite the progress though, Biden still made clear there’s a long way to go considering a same-sex couple can get married one day but then get fired in 22 states because they don’t enjoy any kind of protection from discrimination. Biden also praised the gay rights movement, saying he recently visited the site of the Stonewall riots. “Think of the incredible, physical, moral courage it took to stand up and fight back,” he said.
Dan Diamond from Politico points out on Twitter that Biden told a similar story about discrimination against gay waiters in 2014. Only then, he set the stage 15 years back, to 1999.
These latest comments comes at the end of a difficult week for Biden on the campaign trail. Speaking in Chicago on Friday about the need for criminal justice reform, Biden said, “That kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger.” Sen. Cory Booker criticized the former vice president for his choice of words. “This isn’t about a hoodie,” Booker wrote on Twitter. “It’s about a culture that sees a problem with a kid wearing a hoodie in the first place. Our nominee needs to have the language to talk about race in a far more constructive way.”
The Biden campaign defended the former vice president, saying he “was calling direct attention to the daily experiences faced by many African American men around the country and the perceived so-called ‘threat’ from people like Trayvon Martin who were racially profiled and deemed ‘criminal’ while wearing a hoodie.” But the criticism packed a stronger punch because it came shortly after Sen. Kamala Harris attacked Biden for his past opposition to federally mandated school busing during Thursday’s Democratic debate.
Speaking to a group of donors in northern California, Biden said he rejected the idea that he’s the “old guy” in the Democratic field. “I know I get criticized, ‘Biden says he can bring the country together.’ Well guess what, I refuse to accept, ‘He’s the old guy.’ I refuse to accept the status quo,” he said.