Biden: Five years ago, you could mock a gay waiter at a business lunch in Seattle and no one would object
Is that right? It was five years ago, you may remember, that Brendan Eich was being forced out at Mozilla because he once donated a thousand bucks to the Prop 8 effort in California years before.
Five years ago was also the thick of the Obama presidency and the tail end of the movement to legalize gay marriage, with the Supreme Court only a year away from the Obergefell decision.
He’s not setting this vignette in some heavily socially conservative part of the country either. He’s claiming out-and-out mockery of gays, to their faces, was S.O.P. in … Seattle.
Imagine how insanely heavy-handed you’d need to be in pandering to a sympathetic crowd for members of that crowd to feel obliged to call you out on it.
Biden — speaking at fundraiser hosted by Seattle gay-rights leader — suggests that mocking “a gay waiter” was seen as OK just five years ago, leading to crowd objections, per pool report. pic.twitter.com/eu02HpAlq4
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) June 30, 2019
This is not the first time he’s told this story, Diamond went on to note. He’s been telling it for years, with the time span between when it was and wasn’t supposedly okay to mock someone to their face for being gay changing as Biden’s political needs changed. Here’s a report from, er, five years ago, with Uncle Joe remembering the bad old days of casual cruelty towards gays:
Biden then set a scene. It’s 15 years earlier and a group of businesswomen and men are at a restaurant for lunch. “And a waiter with a distinct lisp came up and asked for their order and someone said, ‘Well let me tell you what I’d like,’” Biden said, feminizing his voice and pretending to be a restaurant patron picking on the waiter. “Everyone around that table, although they thought it was awful, wouldn’t say anything.” Because, as Biden put it, this was “appropriate behavior” – the consensus would have been that it’s OK to make fun of someone who is gay. (Side note: Biden had a speech impediment as a kid.)
“Imagine what would happen today in any major city in America if some horse’s tail said that at a luncheon?” Biden mused. “Everyone else at that table would turn around and say, ‘What in the hell are you talking about man?’”
Evidently that revolution in attitudes towards gays he spoke of in 2014 was *very* new, because here he was again last year claiming that the poor gay waiter in his mind’s eye was being mocked with no hint of dissent by onlookers as recently as “five to six years ago” — 2012 or so — in a city as blue as Washington D.C.
The detail about a lisp is, uh, vivid. Someone in the press should attempt to pin him down on this, just for fun: Can ol’ Uncle Joe give us an approximate date on which mocking someone in a professional setting to their face for exhibiting stereotypically gay traits went from grudgingly acceptable to taboo? Somewhere between 1999 and 2014, it looks like.
The whole thing reminds me of the story Howard Stern tells in “Private Parts” about how he used to prank a very old Bob Hope by getting him to tell and retell the story of playing golf with Eisenhower and George Bush’s father, Prescott. Hope would mention it reflexively every time the subject of Bush came up, Stern noted; once, as a bit of cruel fun, Stern simply mentioned the word “Prescott” to him to see if it would trigger Hope to tell the story, and sure enough. Someone should try that with Biden. Tell him that your cousin, who happens to be a gay waiter, is supporting him in the primaries this year. See what happens.
See if he does the “feminized voice” for you in running through his shtick.
In fairness to Uncle Joe, all politicians have canned speeches and anecdotes. This isn’t even the first time he’s been caught this year recycling material ad nauseam: He’s told the story of recruiting people in Detroit from “the hood” for tech jobs over and over through the last decade. The “gay waiter” anecdote, combined with his debate performance, should concern Biden fans not because it trades in stereotypes or because it’s goofy to believe open mockery would be tolerated in a business setting in Seattle in 2014 but because the guy does seem at times as if he’s lost a step, forced to rely on the same ol’ scripts. What’s he going to do at the next debate when Harris launches a seventeen-point attack on his work on the crime bill 25 years ago? Run through the “hood” speech again?
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