On Thursday during a speech in Omaha, Joe Biden called Mike Pence a "decent guy," and it didn't take long for the backlash to kick in. Specifically, people including Cynthia Nixon were quick to call Biden out for supporting a politician with such a stark anti-LGBTQ track record. Biden eventually responded to Nixon's criticism — and since he's been publicly toying with a presidential run, it's safe to say the internet community is reading into every detail of it.
Per CNN, the statement arose when Biden was talking about how the international community had reacted to a speech given by Pence in Munich earlier in the month. During that speech, the vice president mentioned Trump and received no applause. Biden said:
The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who's a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, 'I'm here on behalf of President Trump,' and there was dead silence. Dead silence.
Shortly following Biden's statement, Nixon tweeted at Biden, "You’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader 'a decent guy.' Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community."
Biden then responded to Nixon in a tweet, writing:
You’re right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn’t be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.
In response, Nixon thanked Biden, tweeting, "Appreciate the response. But please understand from where we sit, his dehumanizing of our community disqualifies
@MikePence for the honorific of ‘decent’, regardless of the context."
Following Biden's comments, another group of people focused not on the person he was talking about, but on the words he used to describe him: Apparently, Biden describes a lot of people as "decent guys." He described Paul Ryan as a "decent guy" in 2016, and even described Trump as "probably a decent guy" in 2016, as well. He also called George H.W. Bush a "decent" man after the president died in December.
It's worth noting that Biden has been consistently outspoken in the past about the importance of bipartisanship.
Perhaps the most famous of Biden's speeches about bipartisanship came during his eulogy for John McCain over the summer, when he said:
I would go sit next to John, next to his seat or he would come on the Democratic side and sit next to me...[Now], all we do today is attack the oppositions of both parties, their motives, not the substance of their argument.
More recently, Biden defended his love of bipartisanship on Jan. 24, saying in a speech to the United States Conference of Mayors, as relayed by CNN, "I read in the New York Times today that one of my problems if I were to run for president, I like Republicans. OK, well, bless me father for I have sinned."
Biden continued, "From where I come from... I don't know how you get anything done unless we start talking to one another again."
Of course, many others had problems with Biden's words, regardless of what his intention might have been. Samy Nemir-Olivares, a former Clinton staffer and founder of a queer activist group, tweeted on Thursday evening, "People confuse & often praise being afable [sic], articulate & soft spoken with decency -when in fact they are quietly & actively doing** & behaving the opposite way, pushing discrimination & attacking communities."
Nemir-Olivares concluded, "I’ll take a loud supporter of human rights 10k before ‘decent’ Pence."