While bashing the GOP for leaving women and the middle class behind on Friday, Vice President Biden spoke favorably about a former Republican senator who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
“It’s Republicans who were involved, guys like [Sen.] Mac Mathias [R-Md.] and [Sen. Bob] Packwood [R-Oregon] and so many others,” Biden said, looking back fondly on GOP lawmakers who were once willing to work with Democrats on issues like the minimum wage.
It’s been a rough week for Biden, who is no stranger to gaffes. On Tuesday, he used the term “shylock” to describe people who gave bad loans to members of the military. The word is generally recognized as an anti-Semitic slur, and he later apologized.
The next day, he referred to Asia as "the Orient" and said that “we’ll determine” whether the U.S. needs to send ground forces to fight ISIS. President Obama has repeatedly assured the American people that there will be no U.S. troops on the ground fighting ISIS.
Biden’s comments came during a passionate speech at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, where he spoke forcefully about domestic violence prevention and the Violence Against Women Act. Then a Delaware senator, Biden introduced the legislation in 1990 and worked to get it passed in 1994.
“If we forced America to look it in the eye, they would stand up,” he said about his thought process when he wrote the bill. “To look into the eyes of the women who were abused in every social strata, every income level. Doctors as brutal as plumbers, football players as brutal as professors — no distinction.”
Now 20 years after the act passed, Biden said it “blows [his] mind” that reauthorization is still contentious. He cited statistics on lowering rates of domestic violence, but said that there’s still more work to do.
“Success will come when the societal attitude changes and women, not a single woman in America asks herself the question ‘what did I do?’” he said, his voice heightened with emotion. The crowd of Democratic donors loudly cheered Biden throughout the speech, standing for a hearty ovation when he finished.
The vice president also used his remarks to rally support for the Democratic cause in 2014 and asked his audience of donors to “make sure that we don’t slide back a decade by losing the Senate and losing ground in the House.”
“There’s so much more to come if Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] once again gets Speaker of the House, if [Sen.] Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE [D-La.] continues to be Chairman of the Energy [Committee],” Biden said. He also mentioned North Carolina Sen. Kay HaganKay Hagan Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenMcMahon dodges smackdown from Small Business Committee Trump nominee: SBA should be standalone agency The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, two other female Democratic senators facing tough reelection fights.
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who introduced Biden, admitted to the vice president that she used to wear a 'Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Women's March was about tantrums, not women Biden boards train home to Delaware after Trump's inauguration Overnight Tech: Meet the key players for Trump on tech | Patent chief staying on | Kerry aide goes to Snapchat | Uber's M settlement MORE for President' button on her backpack in 1988, even after he lost the party’s nomination.
“I am neutral as the DNC chair and will be,” she said, “but I just wanted you to have that historical reference.”
Biden turned around to praise Wasserman Schultz, who has reportedly fallen out of favor with the White House and other prominent Democrats according to a Politico report this week.
“I’ve never seen anybody work as hard and as tirelessly as Debbie has,” he said. “If we want anybody to do that 60 seconds or 120 seconds we get to respond to some attack on the president or on the administration, the best person … is always Debbie.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, asked about Biden's mention of Packwood, said the vice president did not need to explain his record on sexual assault "to anyone."
"I think the vice president has a stronger record, probably than anybody else in Washington, D.C., when it comes to his decades of leadership on issues related to combating violence against women," Earnest said.
This story was updated at 2:52 p.m.