In an increasingly heated Democratic primary just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Joseph Biden took a not-so-veiled swipe at Bernie Sanders on Saturday for accepting Joe Rogan’s support despite comments from the podcast host condemned as transphobic.
Taking to Twitter, Biden draws on his comments he made as vice president when he called transgender rights “the civil rights issue of our time,” which stands in contrast to the Sanders campaign accepting Rogan’s support.
Let’s be clear: Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 25, 2020
An LGBTQ backlash against Sanders ensued after he promoted the Rogan endorsement on his Twitter account. Among those criticizing Sanders was Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, who said “it is disappointing that the Sanders campaign has accepted and promoted the endorsement.”
“The Sanders campaign must reconsider this endorsement and the decision to publicize the views of someone who has consistently attacked and dehumanized marginalized people,” David said.
Among other things, Rogan in the past has said a transgender woman athlete is actually a man, has used anti-gay epithets before “retiring” them and compared a black neighborhood to “Planet of the Apes” before admitting the comments were racist.
Amid the backlash, the Sanders campaign didn’t retract the endorsement or admonish Rogan for his comments, but instead defended the decision.
“Sharing a big tent requires including those who do not share every one of our beliefs, while always making clear that we will never compromise our values,” said Sanders national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray.
Also defending Sanders is Christine Hallquist, the first openly transgender gubernatorial nominee of a major party. Hallquist, who unsuccessfully ran in Vermont in 2018, told the Huffington Post “there is a contingent of privileged white males and we need their votes.” Additionally, Hallquist said she plans on endorsing Sanders.
Biden makes the veiled criticism of Sanders as the two are locked in national polls as the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination. The upcoming Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 will be key to see who has momentum going forward.
None of other major presidential candidates (or for that matter President Trump) have been public in criticizing Sanders for accepting Rogan’s support, including gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. The Blade has placed in with the campaigns of Buttigieg, Andrew Yang and Elizabeth Warren seeking comment. (UPDATE: A spokesperson for Yang campaign told the Blade it has no comment on the Rogan controversy.)
Both Biden and Sanders have long records of supporting LGBTQ rights in the lifelong public service, although there are some differences in the margins.
For example, Sanders in 1996 was one of a few House members to vote against the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, but Biden voted for it as a U.S. senator. Biden’s early support for marriage equality in 2012 got the ball rolling for victories at the ballot, but Sanders was late in embracing the issue.