- Former Vice President Joe Biden’s panel at the LGBTQ Presidential Forum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, became terse after moderator and columnist Lyz Lenz pressed him on his past votes and characterization of Vice President Mike Pence as a “decent guy.”
- “In 1994, you did vote for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and in 1996 you voted for the Defence of Marriage Act. You did vote to repeal both of those, but you have also praised Vice President Mike Pence as a ‘decent guy,'” Lenz said, to which the crowd responded with jeers.
- “You’re a lovely person,” Biden responded, to scattered laughs. “I’m just asking the questions that people want to know,” she replied, to cheers and applause.
- Lenz also tweeted that, as she and Biden walked offstage, he said to her “dryly, ‘You’re a real sweetheart.'” She told The New York Times that she interpreted the remarks as “a little condescending.”
- “Speaking truth to power and moving beyond the soundbite is my job, no matter who I am interviewing,” Lenz told Business Insider. “And I am good at it. I am a professional woman with a career of writing in-depth profiles and books, I’m not a sweetheart.”
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At a forum on LGBTQ issues for Democratic presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden fumbled his interview with Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Lyz Lenz. When Lenz, who is also author of the book “God Land,” pressed him on his record toward LGBTQ issues, he responded in a way that she later told The New York Times was “a little condescending.”
The exchange was captured on video, in front of an audience of 700. While questioning the candidate, Lenz said “In 1994, you did vote for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and in 1988 you voted for the Defence of Marriage Act. You did vote to repeal both of those, but you have also praised Vice President Mike Pence as a ‘decent guy.'”
In response to Biden’s praise of the current vice president, who has a record of anti-gay stances, the crowd booed. Biden responded by saying “You’re a lovely person,” and laughter could be heard.
“I’m just asking the questions that people want to knows,” Lenz replied, to cheering and applause.
Lenz told Business Insider that the exchange between her and Biden reveals that journalists need to press politicians harder on LGBTQ issues. She said she worked with moderators to “formulate questions that would push the politicians past 30 second sound bites and into the heart of the issues.”
“You’re a lovely person,” Biden tells the moderator to laugher.
“Just asking the questions people want to know,” she replied pic.twitter.com/DB10NGuBCP
— Molly Nagle (@MollyNagle3) September 21, 2019
“We need to hold politicians accountable to their record and push them on what concrete plans they have to make our country more inclusive for all Americans,” Lenz said. “I’m shocked people are shocked that I would push back against dismissive comments, that’s my job as a journalist.”
She also tweeted that as the two departed the stage, Biden said “You’re a real sweetheart,” to her, dryly.
“Speaking truth to power and moving beyond the soundbite is my job, no matter who I am interviewing,” Lenz said. “And I am good at it. I am a professional woman with a career of writing in-depth profiles and books, I’m not a sweetheart.”
In his full response to Lenz’s questioning, Biden pointed out that he came out in support of same-sex marriage days before former President Barack Obama did. “I didn’t have to evolve,” Biden said.
Several prominent feminists responded to Lenz’s tweet with praise, including the author Jessica Valenti, who replied that she was “a f—ing hero.” Biden supporters pointed out that the candidate responded quickly on Twitter to his own praise of Pence, noting that “there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”
Biden also said that he has been sympathetic to same-sex couples ever since he was a child, and saw two men kiss in Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden is from. The candidate said his father said “‘Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.”
The forum was hosted by GLAAD and was the first event of its kind for the 2020 Democratic primary. Lenz says she feels like her moments on stage are a distraction from the “real work” of the forum, including that Keenan Crow became the first non-binary moderator of a presidential forum.
Lenz also noted the “powerful moments” of Senator Kamala Harris and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro calling out Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her policies that harm transgender students, and Senator Elizabeth Warren reading off the names of the 18 transgender women of colour who have been killed in 2019.
Another LGBTQ town hall-style event for the Democratic candidates is being hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and will be broadcast by CNN on October 10 in LA.
Biden’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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