A recently resurfaced video clip from 2016 shows then-Vice President Joe Biden giving a speech to troops overseas in which he jokingly refers to them as “stupid bastards.”
Biden addressed troops in Abu Dhabi on March 7, 2016, and was introduced by Lt. Karen Johnson, an Air Force officer he had personally nominated for the Air Force Academy.
The Biden campaign confirmed the veracity of the remarks to The Daily Beast but said they were made in jest so that the audience would clap for the Air Force lieutenant standing nearby.
“Vice President Biden was jokingly encouraging the audience to clap for an airwoman on the stage, and a number of service members can be seen laughing and smiling at the comment. Seconds before, he praised them for ‘the incredible sacrifices [they] make for our country,’” Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Here is this transcript:
Thank you. (Applause.) Hello! (Applause.) It’s great to see you all. Jill and I are really honored to be here. I’ve been doing this job for a while, and everywhere I go I see warriors like all of you before me and behind me here. Excuse my back, folks.
I’ve been in and out of the Balkans 25 times; in and out of Iraq 26 times; in and out of Afghanistan about 10 or 12 times. And I have one regret every time I’m with you all — and I mean this sincerely — is the folks back home can’t see you; can’t see you in place. Don’t get to fly on the mission with you. Don’t understand — they appreciate, but they don’t fully understand the incredible sacrifices you make for our country.
And I want you to know notwithstanding what you may here about me, I have incredibly good judgment. One, I married Jill. And two, I appointed Johnson to the academy. I just want you to know that. Clap for that, you stupid bastards. (Applause.) Come on, man.
Man, you are a dull bunch. Must be slow here, man. I don’t know.
Look, in full disclosure, Lieutenant Johnson, she came to see me in 2008 and I appointed her — back in the days of the Senate. And I had the great privilege of nominating her to the Air Force Academy. And I’m so proud to see how her career has advanced.
I also want to thank very much, Brigadier General Orcutt for welcoming me and my family here today. And we know you all — the temp ops here is pretty high, and you got better things to do than come and see Jill and me. But we never pass up an opportunity wherever we are around the world to try to see our warriors.
Biden later praised the military audience as the “finest generation of warriors the world has ever, ever known.”
As the Daily Beast notes, the speech has been available on YouTube since 2017 but went viral among supporters of President Donald Trump on late Friday afternoon. The remarks received little attention back in 2016, when Biden was vice president.
In an article for the conservative outlet The Bulwark, Jim Swift, a former Republican House and Senate staffer, called it a “ginned up controversy” since the remarks were ignored at the time by Republicans.
“In March 2016, I was the deputy online editor of The Weekly Standard and if there were serious allegations that a sitting VP—especially a Democrat—called our troops, and meant it, ‘stupid bastards’ I would have heard about it. It’s catnip for the rightwing zeitgeist,” Swift wrote, calling it a “nothingburger.”
“It never took off, and there’s good reason: the context, which neither clip shows,” he added. “Ask yourself this, why would Jill Biden, whose stepson is a veteran, clap at her husband calling the military ‘stupid bastards?’ It makes no sense. Why would military service members clap or even smirk?”