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Joe Biden On Tense Town Hall Exchange


Iowans like to give a close look to presidential candidates. One encounter there this week between Joe Biden and a retired farmer got a little heated.


JOE BIDEN: A damn liar, man. That's not true. And no one has ever said that. No one...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: To hell with me (ph). I see it on the TV.

BIDEN: You see it on the TV. No, I know you do. And by the way, that's why I'm not sedentary.

SIMON: Our colleague Rachel Martin joined Joe Biden on his bus as it rolled down the road for an extended interview, part of which we have for you right now.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: You've got the most name recognition in Iowa right now in this race or in the race writ large. You have the resume. You've got the relevant experience more so than any other candidate. Why aren't you running away with this thing? You're fourth in the polls in Iowa.

BIDEN: Well, you know, if you - you sound like you know a lot about Iowa. You know they don't make up their minds till after Thanksgiving. They really don't even do it till after Christmas. And you still have - in the Iowa polling, our favorable rating is still very high. It's in the 70s. And people think the most important issue based on the polling data I've seen I think from The Des Moines Register - don't hold me to it. But I think it was a they said the most important thing they want someone who can beat Trump.

And now what's starting to happen is because I had the most name recognition and I moved right to the top on all the polling data, I got all the incoming, as they say in Southern Illi (ph), from y'all. And now other people are - as they move, they're beginning to look at them as well. And so things are beginning to, you know, move in a different - but nationally, it's not changed. Nationally, we've been at double digits. And we're way ahead in South Carolina as well as in Nevada. And so it's - you know, it's early.

MARTIN: I want to switch gears and ask you...

BIDEN: Sure you do (laughter).

MARTIN: ...What happened the other day at your town hall because...


MARTIN: ...You got a lot of attention for it. A man stood up and started throwing false allegations your way about your son, Hunter Biden, and his work in Ukraine and your work as vice president then in Ukraine. And you responded by calling him a damn liar.

BIDEN: Because he lied.

MARTIN: And then you challenged him to pushups.

BIDEN: I was joking with him because he...

MARTIN: And then you asked him for an IQ test.

BIDEN: No. He came along. And he - well, he's saying - he said he's entitled to do this. He said, you're too old - said, you're too old. I can't vote for somebody as old as you - I said, OK. And I was challenging what kind of shape - so I kidded. I said, want to do a pushup contest? I was joking. Look. I'm in pretty good shape.

MARTIN: Which is what Donald Trump says a lot - hey. You can't take a joke. I was joking. The point...

BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no.

MARTIN: But the point I bring it up...

BIDEN: Don't compare me to Donald Trump.

MARTIN: But people did.

BIDEN: Don't do that.

MARTIN: At the town hall I was just at, they...

BIDEN: No, they didn't.

MARTIN: Yes, they did.

BIDEN: Well, I...

MARTIN: They said to me - the woman you met at the end said to me, I was so disappointed in him. This is a direct quote. "That is not the Joe I know. He sounded like Donald Trump in that clip."

BIDEN: Well, look. Donald - what Donald Trump says - he makes fun of people. He belittles people. He lies. I don't do any of those things - period. The fact of the matter is this guy stood up, and he was, in fact, lying. And I just pointed out, you're a liar. It's a fact. He lied - period. And so, you know, maybe I shouldn't be kidded with him about that - you know, let's do pushups. It's like I was out here in a parade, a Fourth of July parade.

MARTIN: But I think people's point was, in this time, when you talk about needing to restore civility, it's so important to so many people...

BIDEN: That's not civil, to call someone who lied a liar?

MARTIN: To call someone a damn liar, a voter. This isn't Trump - President Trump.

BIDEN: But he's lying. You acknowledge what he said wasn't even true. None of the mainstream media believes any of that was true.

MARTIN: I think it was the tone.

BIDEN: Well...

MARTIN: I think it was the tone that was off-putting to people.

BIDEN: As my mother would say, God love you, dear.

SIMON: (Laughter) NPR's Rachel Martin with Joe Biden - God love them both. You can hear much more of their conversation on Morning Edition Monday and watch the full interview at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.