LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Biden has been fighting a stutter since childhood, and he said Friday he has no regrets about talking openly about it after one of his responses in Thursday’s presidential debate prompted a mocking tweet from former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
“I don’t have any regrets because I know what it’s like to be humiliated,” the former vice president said. Over time, he’s come to look at his speech difficulties as a gift because “it’s generated a sense of empathy in me I might not have had.”
Sanders ridiculed Biden on Twitter after he appeared to imitate a stuttering child during the debate. The tweet was later deleted and Biden said he accepted Sanders’ public apology for posting it.
Biden made the reference to the child when discussing a list of people he regularly keeps in touch with, and who have his personal phone number. He indicated he helps the child with a stutter.
In a tweet last night, Biden wrote: “I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter. And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”
Sanders later tweeted: “I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable. I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”
Biden told reporters gathered outside a Mexican restaurant that his stutter “probably turned out to be the gift that gave me a sense of empathy and understanding, how whether you are a person of color or you are a person with a different attitude or you are a person that looks different or a person who has anything from a cleft palate to a stutter, how it’s debilitating.”
“It should not define them,” Biden said. “The fact that they stutter doesn’t define who they are.”
“There’s a lot of people who are victimized because of things that are beyond their control,” he added. “I feel sometimes a little self-conscious talking about it. But I don’t regret it.”
When asked if President Donald Trump created an environment in which it was permissible to criticize people with physical or other disabilities, Biden said, “He clearly has.”
“The man has no empathy, he has no sense of decency,” Biden added.