Oh, Joe

The Never-Ending List of Vice President Joe Biden’s Verbal Gaffes

Vice President Joe Biden made the media giggle when he assured them President Obama “has a big stick.”

Jim Cole / AP Photo

It’s a bit shocking to hear one of the major players in the White House’s effort to curb gun violence encouraging his own wife to arm herself, but that’s our Joe. And, honestly, among all of the arguments for banning assault weapons, Vice President Biden’s advice to his wife, Jill, may be the most persuasive. “You don’t need an AR-15—it’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself.” Of course, maybe an event hosted by Parents magazine wasn't the best venue.

Biden never ceases to entertain, as well as know. Last April, 200 Turkish-American and Azerbaijani-American Obama donors learned that at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. They didn't realize that, when attending a Joe Biden fundraising event, you can't just show up and write a check—you've got to get excited! In typical Biden fashion, the ever-jovial VP teased the crowd for being subdued. "I guess what I'm trying to say without boring you too long at breakfast—and you all look dull as hell, I might add," he said. "The dullest audience I have ever spoken to. Just sitting there, staring at me. Pretend you like me!"

Earlier, the vice president was down in what he calls “Ever-Gators” giving a speech on Florida’s prized—and endangered—wetlands. In addition to flubbing the Everglades’ name, he joked with a businessman and Everglades advocate present, telling the audience that Ron Bergeron wanted Biden to wrestle alligators with him. “You see this man right here? My Service guy?” He asked Bergeron, motioning to the agent behind him. “He said that if I go, he’ll shoot you, Ronnie. I’m only kidding. That’s not true. He didn’t say he’d shoot Ronnie. He said he’d shoot the alligator if I went.”

Then there's time he tried to explain how President Obama’s foreign policy is better than Mitt Romney’s by referencing Theodore Roosevelt’s classic quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Joe decided to home in on, perhaps, the most important part of Roosevelt’s words saying, “I promise you, the President has a big stick. I promise you.” Biden’s words instantly sent minds into the gutter, eliciting laughter from his audience and many a dirty joke on Twitter. New York magazine chose to interpret the VP’s words literally and put forth a gallery displaying The Many Sticks of Barack Obama.

Biden has shown before that he loves a good double—or even triple—entendre. Last March, he welcomed Ireland’s prime minister to the White House by sharing “An old Irish saying” that his Grandfather Finnegan probably made up: “May the hinges of our friendship never go rusty.” Biden insisted that when it comes to the friendship between the U.S. and Ireland, “there’s no doubt about them staying oiled and lubricated here.” When Joe’s audience erupted in laughter, he added, “Now, for those of you who are not full Irish in this room, lubricated has a different meaning for us.”

In another speech, amid several Irish proverbs and sayings, Biden referenced the prime minister’s mother, saying: “God rest her soul.” Then the VP had a realization: “Wait, your mom’s still alive! It was your dad who passed. God bless her soul!” Biden corrected his mistake, the audience roared, yet it was unclear whether the PM found Biden’s blunder amusing.

What was amusing was Biden’s lamenting of the exchange of “Hottie Spy” Anna Chapman to the Russians for four American spies. The VP told Jay Leno, “Let me be clear. It wasn’t my idea to send her back. I thought maybe they’d take Rush Limbaugh or something. That would’ve been a good move.”

Biden’s gaffes aren’t reserved for overseas issues. His heart clearly belongs to his more-polished-speaking wife, Jill, and he made clear when he announced at a National Teacher of the Year reception, “I’ve been sleeping with a teacher for a long time. But it’s always been the same teacher.” The audience loves his candor and this time he got all his facts right: Jill Biden is a professor at Northern Virginia Community College.

Just because Biden’s a one-woman man doesn’t mean he can’t compliment another lady on her accomplishments, even if it’s at his own peril. Just two months before the 2008 presidential election, then–vice presidential candidate Joe Biden defended Hillary Clinton against a rally attendee who said he was happy Obama didn’t pick her as his running mate. “Make no mistake about this. Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America,” he said.

Despite this statement, Obama proceeded toward the election with Biden by his side. At one point, Joe was so excited on the campaign trail that he almost forgot his running mate’s name, introducing him as Barack America. He was even more excited when, after entering the White House in 2009, Obama passed his landmark health-care legislation. “This is a big fucking deal,” Biden’s hot mic caught him whispering into Obama’s ear at the signing ceremony, in case the president didn’t already know.

If only Biden had been as aware of the circumstance at hand when he asked paraplegic State Sen. Chuck Graham to “stand up” in front of a crowd in Columbia, Mo., before realizing Graham was in a wheelchair. “Oh, God love ya,” he said. “What am I talking about?” Or when he broke into an Indian accent during a speech in New Hampshire or accidentally thanked “Dr. Pepper” instead of Scott Community College President Dr. Theresa Paper at a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa. But if he hadn’t made these cringeworthy gaffes, he wouldn’t be the off-the-cuff, straight-shooting, error-prone vice president we know. For better or worse, Joe, “God love ya.”