Dec 8, 2019

Biden: Stuttering not to blame for verbal screwups

Former Vice President Joe Biden told "Axios on HBO" that stuttering isn't to blame for a string of verbal mistakes in the 2020 campaign. 

Why it matters: A reporter for The Atlantic who stutters wrote recently that he studied Biden’s verbal miscues and concluded that lifelong stuttering struggles were to blame. 

  • The piece suggested that Biden's boyhood stutter, which he has talked about throughout his political career, is still with him. But in the "Axios on HBO" interview, Biden said that's not how he sees it.

“I don't think of myself as continuing to stutter. ... That doesn't cross my mind that I'm stuttering,” Biden said. “Look, the mistakes I make are mistakes. And some people think I still stutter. I don't think of myself that way.”

  • Sometimes, Biden said, "I'll find myself searching for a second" to find the words — but "I've always attributed that to being tired and not to the stutter."

Biden has had a number of verbal stumbles during the campaign. He referred to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, as taking place in Houston and Michigan, and he said he met with the Parkland high school students as vice president when that mass shooting happened after he left office.

  • But Biden dismissed those as a meaningless media obsession. He said his age isn't to blame, claiming he’s operating at "110%" of the mental skills he had when he was vice president — "better than I was."
  • “(Voters) don't think I lost a step. There's no evidence to suggest that. You guys love it. You guys love it. But I haven't seen any evidence of that.”

Biden did talk about the embarrassment he faced as a child because of his stutter. "I remember stuttering when I had to speak publicly, when I had to stand up and read. When I had to. And it was mortifying," Biden said.

  • But in the long run, Biden said, the experience was "maybe the best thing that ever happened to me. Because it gave me an insight that I don't know that I would have ever had before, that everybody has something ... that is not something they're able to overcome just by saying, 'I'm not going to do that.'"

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