Awkward Moments for Joe Biden at Iowa Forum on LGBTQ Issues

Sunday September 22, 2019

At Friday's forum on LGBTQ issues in Iowa, 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden found himself on the defensive when asked questions by a local female reporter, who claimed later that his treatment of her was condescending.

In a report in the New York Times, the newspaper writes:, "Mr. Biden seemed to recoil from the direct questioning from Lyz Lenz, a Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist.

"In a question-and-answer session, Ms. Lenz repeatedly pressed Mr. Biden about his past votes for the Defense of Marriage Act, the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that forbade openly gay people from serving and his statement earlier this year that Vice President Mike Pence, known for his socially conservative positions, was 'a decent guy.'"

Her questions, according to Rolling Stone, elicited boos. Biden responded to Lenz: "You're a lovely person."

Lenz quickly replied, "Just asking the questions that people want to know."

"Mr. Biden sought to defend himself, reminding the audience in a steamy auditorium that he supported same-sex marriage before President Obama. ]I didn't have to evolve,' he said," reported the Times. (The reference was to the Obama's need to express how he evolved on the issue.)

Ms. Lenz tweeted that backstage Mr. Biden called her "a real sweetheart."

"'I interpreted it as a little condescending,; Ms. Lenz said in a backstage interview, echoing the immediate criticism of some prominent feminists on social media," writes the Times.

"The exchange sparked some criticism on social media," writes a report on The Hill, with writer Anand Giridharadas calling it an example of "sexism with a smile."

"Watch him grow angry at @lyzl's solid question -- and then try to slap her down in the most patronizing way," Giridharadas tweeted.

Biden's supporters found some inaccuracies in Ms. Lenz's questions. "His supporters said he didn't back 'don't ask, don't tell' and voted for an amendment to remove the measure from a broader bill in 1993. They also argue that she misrepresented the impact of the 1994 crime bill that he championed," reports the Times.

"Mr. Biden had already responded to criticism of his comments about Mr. Pence earlier this year, writing on Twitter shortly after his initial remark that 'there is nothing decent about being anti-L.G.B.T.Q. rights, and that includes the vice president.'"

But a digger deep at Vox found issues with Biden's answers:

"But Biden's many years of public service have given him a long voting history that left the candidate open to sharp critique. Lenz pressed Biden about his extensive record on issues that affect the LGBTQ community, including his votes as a US senator for legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as existing between one man and one woman, and a spending bill that included "don't ask, don't tell," the military policy that banned openly gay people from serving in the military.

"At times, Biden seemed to struggle with his answers. The then-senator helped champion the 1994 crime bill that critics link to today's cycle mass incarceration, and Lenz asked him about that bill's specific impact on LGBTQ people of color. In response, Biden tried to argue that inmates should be imprisoned based on their gender identity, rather than on the sex they were assigned at birth — a stance in line with what advocates have called for — but appeared to conflate sexuality and gender identity.

"'In prison, the determination should be that your sexual identity is defined by what you say it is, not what in fact the prison says it is,' Biden said."

Watch an edited clip of the exchange below:

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