Biden’s ‘gay waiter’ comment on LGBTQ rights falls flat in Seattle

Posted at 9:44 AM, Jun 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-30 20:32:22-04

People gathered at a 2020 presidential fundraiser for Joe Biden Saturday pushed back against the former vice president’s claim that just a few years ago people in Washington state would have let a homophobic comment slide, saying “Not in Seattle!”

The presidential hopeful suggested public sentiment toward gay rights issues has come far in a short period of time, saying five years ago if someone at a business meeting in Seattle “made fun of a gay waiter” people would just let it go, according to a pool report of the event. The audience vocally responded to the remark and some in the crowd said homophobic comments would not have gone unchallenged even before five years ago, according to the report.

The event was hosted by public relations executive Roger Nyhus, who is known as a leader in the Seattle gay rights community.

Biden said if someone made homophobic comments today, “that person would not be invited back,” and said it was wrong that a gay couple could get married one day and get fired the next in 22 states because they lacked legal protections from job discrimination.

Biden recalled when he, as vice president, said publicly in 2012 that he supported same-sex marriage before former President Barack Obama. Obama, who had previously said his position on the issue was “evolving,” announced his support for same-sex marriage after Biden’s comments.

The former vice president said he told White House advisers at the time, “The American people are so far ahead of their leaders on this issue.”

Biden told the crowd that he recently visited the site of the Stonewall riots, and said, “Think of the incredible, physical, moral courage it took to stand up and fight back.”

Biden also spent a portion of his about 30-minute speech addressing Trump’s relationship with authoritarian leaders and the Trump administration’s impact on the country. He closed his remarks to applause.

Biden’s campaign hits some snags

The reaction to Biden’s comment in Seattle Saturday comes after a rocky week for his presidential campaign. Other 2020 Democratic hopefuls have taken shots at the former vice president, including in a viral moment from Thursday’s Democratic debate when California Sen. Kamala Harris assailed Biden over his previous positions on race and busing, and comments earlier this month about his ability to work with segregationist senators.

“I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said to Biden. “But I also believe and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senator who is built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

“It was not only that…” she continued. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me.”

The Harris campaign raised more than $2 million in 24 hours following the debate, marking the single best fundraising day for the campaign since Harris entered the race in January, according to the Harris campaign.

Biden defended his record on civil rights issues following the debate in a speech Friday, saying he “heard” Harris while calling his career in government a “lifetime committed to civil rights.”

“I heard and I listened to and I respect Sen. Harris,” he said at a Rainbow PUSH Coalition event in Chicago. “But, you know, we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds in a campaign debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.”

Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker, who also rebuked Biden earlier this month for his comments on segregationist senators, said Sunday that the Democratic frontrunner is “causing a lot of frustration and even pain” through his recent comments on race.

“Right now, the vice president to me is not doing a good job at bringing folks together. In fact, he’s caused — and I’ve heard this from people all around the country — he’s causing a lot of frustration and even pain with his words,” Booker told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”

Biden, who launched his presidential bid in April has consistently polled above the rest of the crowded Democratic field. A poll from Monmouth University taken before the debates earlier this month showed Biden leading his competitors with 32% support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.