Former Vice President Joe Biden often name-drops his friend and former running mate Barack Obama on the campaign trail, but he made a grim reference to the 44th president in New Hampshire on Friday while recalling what it was like when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated in 1968.
"My two political heroes were Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy," Biden said at a town hall in Hanover. "My senior semester, they were both shot and killed. Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee. What would have happened in America?"
Several Biden campaign staffers took to Twitter as his remarks were going viral, blasting some journalists for "chasing clicks."
"He was putting into perspective, for young folks in the room, about how traumatic the assassinations of RFK and MLK were for the country," Biden adviser Symone Sanders told Washington Post reporter Matt Viser.
"Taking this out of context is malicious," Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates similarly scolded CNN's Chris Cillizza. "He was putting into perspective, for young people, how traumatic the assassinations of RFK and MLK were for the country. The crowd didn't even react because they understood his point. This click-chasing is sickening."
Campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield accused The Daily Beast of using "a sleazy headline" to describe Biden's remarks.
The assassination remarks weren't the only awkward or inaccurate statement by Biden, who went on to say that "you had over 40 kids shot at Kent State on a beautiful lawn by the National Guard." In fact, only four students were killed and nine others were injured when Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on an anti-Vietnam War protest on May 4, 1970.
Earlier Friday, Biden made numerous blunders during a speech that suggested his health care plan won't have "quality" and that it's "only affordable."
"If you're not satisfied, you have another option, high-quality options. The public option will be made available," Biden told the crowd. "We'll make sure it's not quality, we’ll make sure it’s only affordable, quality that's affordable."
Biden also accidentally stated that premiums would "increase" for the working class.
"And for folks in the working class… they will, in fact, will increase their premiums," Biden said before quickly correcting himself, "excuse me, increase the generosity of the premium tax credit they now get."
Other eyebrow-raising comments by Biden Friday included a riff on his support of teachers, which included a reference to his wife, an educator. The former vice president said that if he didn't support teachers, "I would be sleeping alone."
At an event in Croydon, N.H., Biden discussed taking away some tax breaks for wealthier Americans, saying: "I find most rich people are as patriotic as poor people."
Despite maintaining a steady lead among his 2020 competitors, some within the Democratic Party have expressed concern about Biden's candidacy after he made a series of gaffes at the Iowa State Fair earlier this month.
During a fiery speech, Biden told the crowd "We choose truth over facts" — an apparent allusion to the left's allegations of deception from the Trump administration. Later on, he spoke to the Asian & Latino Coalition PAC urging everyone to "challenge" students in low-income neighborhoods.
"What we should do is, we should challenge these students in these schools. They have advanced placement programs in these schools," Biden said. "We have this notion that somehow if you're poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids."
After a very brief pause, Biden quickly continued speaking, adding: “Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids.”
Previously, Biden mistakenly said recent mass shootings had taken place "in Houston … and also in Michigan," instead of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.