Joe Biden told a CBS News reporter to “calm down” after he asked the Democratic presidential candidate why he’d accepted an apology from Sen. Bernie Sanders, a top rival for the nomination, but continued to attack him.
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"Yesterday, you said you accepted Bernie's apology, now you're attacking him," said Ed O'Keefe, the veteran reporter covering the 2020 presidential campaign for the network. "Why are you doing that? Why wasn't his apology enough, Mr. Vice President? Why attack Sanders?"
Biden, who’d been leaving the press area, turned around and mocked the question.
"Why why why why why," he said, tapping O’Keefe’s lapels. "You're getting nervous, man! Calm down! It's OK."
Biden then added, "He apologized for saying that I was corrupt. He didn't say anything about whether I was telling the truth or not about Social Security."
Earlier in the week, Sanders apologized to Biden for an op-ed a surrogate that claimed the former vice president had a “big corruption problem.” Published in the Guardian and written by law professor Zephyr Teachout, the op-ed claimed that “Joe has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans.”
But the two are continuing to duke it out over their records on Social Security. Late Tuesday night, Sanders tweeted, “Let’s be honest, Joe. One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn’t. But don’t take it from me. Take it from you.”
He attached a video clip of then-Sen. Biden speaking on the Senate floor in 1995 advocating for a freeze in federal spending.
“When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well,” he said. “I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”
Sanders’ tweet appeared to be a response to an earlier video released by the Biden campaign, which argued that Biden has “repeatedly voted to save Social Security.” The video directly targeted Sanders, accusing him of running dishonest ads.
“I've been fighting to protect — and expand — Social Security for my whole career,” Biden wrote in a tweet. “Any suggestion otherwise is just flat-out wrong.”
Although Biden has called for expanding Social Security and paying for it by imposing taxes on the wealthy, that’s a marked shift from his time in the Senate, when he and other moderate Democrats flirted with the possibility of either cutting benefits or increasing the retirement age.
The clash between Sanders and Biden escalated over the weekend when Biden demanded an apology from Sanders’ campaign, accusing “Bernie’s people” of doctoring a video that suggested he agreed in 2018 with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Politico reported there’s no evidence the video was altered, although Politifact said Sanders’ campaign was wrong and ignored important context.
"I think anyone who looks at the vice president's record understands that time after time after time, Joe has talked about the need to cut Social Security," Sanders said. "That's in the congressional record. He has said that many, many times. I don't think that's disputable."