Vice President Joe Biden said he once chased down a bully on his bicycle, physically assaulted him, and threatened to “kill” him—all in the name of protecting the honor of his sister Valerie.
Biden is, of course, famous for being a bit loose in his public remarks. But these comments, made Wednesday night in New York City, were particularly unbound.
The vice president was being honored by Vital Voices, a women’s rights charity, at their event “celebrat[ing] men who combat violence against women.” Biden spoke about standing up for women—both in his personal and professional lives. In doing so, the vice president delighted the audience with a personal anecdote from his childhood as Joey Biden.
“I remember coming back from Mass on Sunday,” Biden began. “Always the big treat was, we’d stop at the donut shop…We’d get donuts, and my dad would wait in the car. As I was coming out, my sister [Valerie] tugged on me and said, ‘That’s the boy who kicked me off my bicycle.’”
“So I went home—we only lived about a quarter mile away—and I got on my bicycle and rode back, and he was in the donut shop.”
Biden remembered the boy was in a physically vulnerable position: “leaning down on one of those slanted counters.”
Sensing his opportunity, Joey Biden pounced: “I walked up behind him and smashed his head next to the counter.”
“I’m not recommending it,” he added.
“His father grabbed me, and I looked at his son and said, ‘If you ever touch my sister again, I’ll come back here again and I’ll kill your son.’ Now, that was a euphemism. I thought I was really, really in trouble… My father never once raised his hand to any one of his children—never once—and I thought I was in trouble. He pulled me aside and said, ‘Joey, you shouldn’t do that, but I’m proud of you, son.’”
The point of the story, Biden informed his audience as he accepted his “Voice of Solidarity” award, was that he was raised to know that it was necessary to “speak up and speak out” to correct wrongdoings. (Full disclosure: The event was held at the headquarters of IAC, the corporate parent of The Daily Beast.) Vital Voices in 2013 took over funds from the Women In The World foundation which originated at The Daily Beast.
In telling the tale of testosterone and a truly American desire for justice joining to propel him on his bicycle to defeat the Bad Guy in the donut shop, the vice president appeared to merge with The Onion’s caricature of him—achieving a moment of Peak Biden, or the bro-like state of being visibly pleased with the degree to which you do not give a damn.
It would be difficult to imagine another politician of Biden’s stature telling this story. Biden, after all, is known for his unbuttoned comments from the podium.
He described then-candidate Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
He told a partially black crowd of Mitt Romney in 2012: “He is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street. He is going to put y’all back in chains.”
And, during his 1988 presidential campaign, he plagiarized the life story of British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock and tried to pass it off as his own.
Which is a shame, in a sense. If Wednesday’s night’s remarks were any guide, Biden appears to have had a rather colorful upbringing of his own.