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Trump mocks Biden over stutter

Donald Trump ridiculed President Biden over the economy, immigration and foreign policy before turning to personal mockery during an Iowa event on Friday night.

A few hours after Biden had given a sweeping denunciation of Trump, calling him a sore loser and a threat to American democracy, the former president made fun of Biden’s childhood speaking impediment.

“Did you see him? He was stuttering through the whole thing,” Trump said to a chuckling crowd on Friday in Sioux Center, Iowa. “He’s saying I’m a threat to democracy.”

“’He’s a threat to d-d-democracy,’” he continued, pretending to stutter. “Couldn’t read the word.”

The remark was not true; Biden said the word “democracy” 29 times in his speech, never stuttering over it. Trump’s comment also marked a particularly crass form of politics that he has exhibited throughout his career that places politeness and human decency at the center of the 2024 presidential election.

Biden’s stutter is something that he has talked about openly, referencing it as something he attempted to overcome. He has used it to connect with others who stutter, and he has also spoken about how being made fun of for it gave him a window into dealing with bullies.

After a nun at his school gave him a hard time — referring to him as “Mr. Bu-Bu-Bu-Bu-Biden” — his mother drove to the school and confronted her. “If you ever speak to my son like that again, I’ll come back and rip that bonnet off your head,” she said, according to Biden’s memoir. “Do you understand me?”

He was called “Dash” and “Joe Impedimenta” by some of his classmates because of the way he stumbled over his words. As a high school freshman, he was exempted from a public speaking presentation because of his stutter.

He detailed his battle with stuttering in an article in the Atlantic, and he has talked about the shame and deep humiliation — and how he would rehearse conversations ahead of time so he could say the correct phrases — but also how it gave him lifelong insights.

“In our family … we’re never allowed to make fun of anyone, no matter how mean they were to us if they had something they couldn’t overcome,” Biden said in a recent interview with Conan O’Brien where he talked about his stutter.

“If you think about it, the only handicap everybody thinks they can still laugh at is stuttering,” Biden said at a campaign fundraiser in October. “It taught me a lot. It taught me a lot, to have a lot of tolerance for people.”

Biden has a practice of clipping sentences into shorter segments, something he has talked about doing as a way to avoid stuttering. And one of his favorite movies is “The King’s Speech,” which depicts the unlikely ascension to the throne of King George VI, who must overcome a speech impediment and address Britain as it enters World War II.

His speeches now are filled with quotes from Irish poets, a relic of a childhood reciting William Butler Yeats in the mirror to overcome his stutter.

“Yesterday President Biden had the courage to say what Donald Trump won’t: that America rejects political violence and ‘is still a country that believes in decency, dignity, honesty, honor, truth,’” said Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign. “Donald Trump continues to prove that he stands against all of those things. Mocking Americans with challenges only does violence to Donald Trump’s own dignity, and the American people stand as one against it.”

Trump’s mockery of Biden came several hours after Biden delivered his first campaign speech of the election year, attempting to define the race as a battle for the future of American democracy. Biden repeatedly criticized Trump in the speech, calling him “a loser” who has attempted to rewrite the events of Jan. 6, 2021, with false claims that he won the election.

“Trump is trying to steal history the same way he tried to steal the election,” he said. “We saw it with our own eyes. Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest. It was a violent assault. They were insurrectionists, not patriots.”

Asked about Trump’s history of mocking those with disabilities, a campaign official said, “The roadside is littered with people who have tried personal attacks on President Trump. It feels like August 2016 all over again.”

Trump has repeatedly mocked people’s disabilities. In 2015 he derisively imitated New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a congenital condition affecting joints known as arthrogryposis. Trump has denied knowing about Kovaleski’s condition.

As president, Trump resisted appearing alongside wounded veterans, as first reported by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser in their book “The Divider,” and later confirmed by former White House chief of staff John F. Kelly. “I don’t want them,” Trump said. “It doesn’t look good for me.” Trump has disputed Kelly’s account.

In a 2015 television interview, Trump responded to criticism from conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who used a wheelchair, by calling him “a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants.”

Long before Trump’s first successful campaign, his 2011 book “Time to Get Tough” called Social Security’s disability insurance program a “racket.”

Trump’s attacks on Biden’s stutter and intelligence, as opposed to his age alone, reflect Trump’s sensitivity about his own age, 77. “What is he, 82 or 81?” Trump said of Biden, who is 81. “Look, I’m not that far behind. But I’m 100 percent up here. I feel I’m better than I was 25 years ago. I think I’d know it.”

Trump’s latest campaign ad also shows Biden falling on the steps up Air Force One. On Saturday, he posted on Truth Social an image of Biden with his mouth agape and a poll suggesting few find him mentally fit for the presidency.

“His speeches last about three minutes, you know why? Because he runs out of fuel,” Trump said during a campaign event in Newton, Iowa, on Saturday. (Biden’s speech on Friday was 32 minutes.)

During a Democratic primary debate in 2019, Biden appeared to stutter while speaking about connecting with children who stutter.

Shortly after, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former press secretary for Trump who is now the governor of Arkansas, sent a tweet that contained a typographical insult aimed at Biden.

“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she tweeted, adding the tag #DemDebate.

Biden responded in a tweet, writing, “I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter. And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”

Sanders later apologized, and Biden used the encounter to raise money.

“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House,” Biden said in a tweet that quotes Sanders and included a fundraising link, “chip in $5.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report from Newton, Iowa.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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