Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Monday night at a Fox News town hall that he would not lodge political attacks on the mental sharpness of his rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination former Vice President Joe Biden, saying rhis focus will remain on substantive policy differences.
The comments came after Fox moderators Brett Baier and Marth MacCallum goaded Sanders by playing a cut of a number of Democratic Party elites and media allies questioning Biden's mental faculties on the campaign trail. Asked to respond to the concerns about Biden's "acuity," Sanders did not take the bait.
"I'm not going to go at that level in attacking him," said Sanders. "That's for the people to decide."
Watch the exchange:
Bernie Sanders asked about Joe Biden's "mental acuity" during Fox News town hall:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) March 9, 2020
“I’m not going to go at that level and attack him. Joe and I have — you know, that’s for people to decide. ... I’m not going to be making, you know, personal attacks on Joe. That's not what I do." pic.twitter.com/yWunjW4yKH
Sanders was also asked by a member of the audience about Biden's answers to questions which "don't make sense," but the senator again deflected by saying he was focused on substantive issues.
The senator instead pivoted to discussing the differences betweeen the two candidates' speaking styles and noted that Biden spoke for only seven minutes at a recent Missouri campaign event—a sharp contrast to Sanders' regular 45-minute-long speeches at rallies.
"There are real crises facing this country," said Sanders. "When I give a speech, often it's 45 minutes or an hour, okay? Because there are a lot of challenges that the country faces, and I've got to talk about them."
"If I'm going to give a speech to people, and that was at a rally or an event that he held, I can't do it in seven minutes," Sanders added.
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Questions about Biden's mental fitness have swirled around the former vice president since he hit the campaign trail in 2019. Biden's speeches, public appearances, and debate performances have been punctuated by forgetfulness, misstatements, and irritability—which political observers have pointed out are all possible signs of cognitive decline.
President Donald Trump has latched onto the attacks and Republicans are already making attack ads targeting Biden and raising doubts about his ability to serve as president, as Politico reported Tuesday:
With Biden emerging as the likely Democratic nominee, Trump has launched a concerted, near-daily campaign to raise doubts about the 77-year-old's mental acuity. The president has been bolstered by a conservative echo chamber flooding social media with video clips highlighting Biden's gaffes.
The Republican National Committee last week circulated a clip showing Biden appearing to confuse his wife and his sister, distributed social media posts making fun of the former vice president for his Super Thursday remark, and cut a video depicting Biden botching a line from the Declaration of Independence.
Some of the president’s conservative allies are taking the attack even further. During a Saturday appearance on Fox News, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Biden is showing "obvious signs of dementia." Fox News host Sean Hannity, meanwhile, devoted an entire segment of his show to documenting how Biden has "a very questionable grip on reality."
In a piece for The Intercept Monday, journalist Glenn Greenwald noted that concerns over Biden's mental faculties were first raised by establishment Democrats.
"Whatever else is true, there are large numbers of people who have long been watching Joe Biden who have been admitting that they see his cognitive decline and that it deeply worries them about his ability to beat Trump," wrote Greenwald. "That includes, indeed has been led by, Democratic politicians, operatives and pundit-journalists now supporting him while feigning outrage over this discussion (that they started) and pretending that it's all some morally reprehensible fabrication recently churned out by his enemies."
Six states, including Michigan, vote in the primaries Tuesday.