Sen. Coons gets animated arguing that Biden’s apparent memory slips aren't 'what matters' in 2024 race

He said the mistakes don't "represent Joe Biden's real body of work."

February 11, 2024, 12:25 PM

Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a co-chair of President Joe Biden's reelection campaign, grew animated on Sunday as he defended Biden after special counsel Robert Hur's new report detailing what Hur called Biden's significant lapses in memory.

"As you well know, small gaffes are a part of what all of us in public life do," Coons said in an interview with ABC News' "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Coons pointed to mistakes that had also been made by House Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Donald Trump and he recalled being with Biden during an hourslong meeting at the White House in which, he said, the president "led a masterful conversation about the challenges to our security, the pathway to peace, the difficulties with Iran and with its proxies."

Coons reiterated what Biden himself said in hastily scheduled remarks on Thursday night that challenged Hur's findings even as Hur said he wouldn't recommend charges against Biden over the president's handling of classified information while out of office.

"We should be focused on two things: the outcome of this report, he was cleared completely, while Donald Trump faces 40 federal felony charges for obstruction of justice and refusing to protect our national secrets -- and President Biden is accomplishing remarkable things for our country," Coons said. (Trump denies wrongdoing.)

But Karl noted that on Thursday, even as Biden pushed back on Hur, he made another mistake, misidentifying the president of Egypt.

"Here is what matters, not the occasional small gaffes: He [Biden] had a 12-minute press conference where he was focused, engaged, purposeful, and all you're focused on is that one minute at the end," Coons said. "That's not what distinguishes him from his opponents."

Karl followed up that Trump's own moments of apparent confusion, including mixing up Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, had been well covered in the press.

But Karl pointed to other notable recent moments in which Biden mistakenly referenced meeting with a French president who has been dead for decades and didn't seem to immediately remember the name of Hamas, the terrorist group that launched deadly attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.

PHOTO: Sen. Chris Coons speaks during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the Capitol, Nov. 28, 2023.
Sen. Chris Coons speaks during a news conference following a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the Capitol, Nov. 28, 2023.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Karl also pointed to polling that has continually found the American people have issues with Biden's age, including a new ABC News/Ipsos poll out Sunday that shows 86% of Americans think Biden is too old to serve another term.

Coons dismissed that.

He said "that poll should have been about" other things like the Senate's deal to tighten border security, which Biden backed, and Biden's support for foreign allies, in contrast with Trump's position on those issues.

"If press coverage focuses relentlessly on things that don't represent Joe Biden's real body of work, you can push towards that kind of result," he argued.

"Joe Biden and Donald Trump and most elected officials make small gaffes, just like the ones you just showed," Coons later added. "That's not what matters. We are in a fight for the soul of our nation."

The senator insisted that the nation should instead be focused on "the way Donald Trump is undermining rule of law, democracy and our safety as a nation."

Karl cited other polls that show Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of some of the same topics that Coons mentioned, like the border.

Coons responded by shifting blame to Trump and Republicans in Congress for opposing the Senate agreement.

Karl also asked Coons about when Biden said during the 2020 campaign that he was "a bridge" to a new generation of Democratic leaders.

"I've spoken to some of the leaders that were behind him who have privately said that they took that as basically a promise he was going to serve one term and he was going to be a bridge to the next leadership of Democrats," Karl said. "Why hasn't that happened, and should that happen?"

Coons deflected by pointing to Biden's track record against Trump.

"Joe Biden ran ... to make sure that Donald Trump was not reelected. Donald Trump is again going to be the candidate of the Republican Party," Coons said. "Joe Biden is the one Democrat who has beaten him, who can beat him and who will beat him."

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