Why Biden will never recover from his ‘record player’ line

Democratic presidential hopeful Former Vice President Joe Biden goes back to the podium after a break during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season Sep. 12 Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images/TNS

Just to be sure I heard it correctly, I replayed former Vice President Joe Biden’s eye-popping gaffe from Thursday night’s debate instructing poor parents to put the record player on to help their children learn. “-Recordplayer” was trending on Twitter by the time I took to the airwaves at 6 a.m. Friday, so my suspicion had already been confirmed: This was more than a gaffe that causes eye rolls. It was one of those gaffes that underscores a candidate’s central weakness and continues to bleed away votes long after its utterance.

Recall Sen. John Kerry’s “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” or then-President Gerald Ford’s famous “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” from a 1976 debate. Gaffes are like sharks. Some are sand sharks that scare you. Others are Jaws-like beasts. After Thursday night, Biden is going to need a bigger boat.

Because it will haunt Biden’s campaign, let’s be sure to get the question and answer down in full, for context’s sake.

Moderator Linsey Davis asked Biden, 76: “In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, ‘I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be d----- if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.’ “

“You said that some 40 years ago,” Davis continued. “But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden responded: “Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. From the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining banks, making sure we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

“Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher, my deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not day care. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

“It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

So the moderator asked about America’s original sin — slavery — and Biden somehow got to turning on record players, which wasn’t an effort to coax the hipster vote away from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., no matter how much the millennials love vinyl. It was an incoherent, rambling illumination of the key knock on Biden: He’s too old. Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro, during the debate, and Sen. Cory Booker, afterward, made this argument, first indirectly, then directly, but they didn’t need to. Biden indicted himself on the age question.

If President Donald Trump abandons “Sleepy Joe” for “Record Player Joe Biden” on Twitter, the tattoo on Biden that is probably already permanent gets inked in bright colors. Manhattan-Beltway media may scoff at the single-phrase branding, but every marketer knows it works and works and works.

“Record player” is like Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign-killing knockdown of Sen. Marco Rubio at a New Hampshire debate. “There it is. There it is,” declared Christie onstage. “The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.” Rubio and his supporters gamely tried for days to argue that what Christie said didn’t matter. It did. It was over for the Florida Republican. A campaign-slashing branding of “robotic” stuck. Just as “record player” will.

Hugh Hewitt writes for the Washington Post.



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(14) comments

hermit thrush

to airball55: no, shame on you. if you want to go running your mouth in a public forum then you should be prepared to be called out on it. can you name a single corrupt thing that joe biden has done? (hint: this ukraine thing isn't one of them. it's a fake scandal pushed by the gop which falls apart under the slightest scrutiny.) i can name 100 scandalous things trump has done. it is insane to compare the two. and if you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.


Are you kidding in regards to Biden? He is on tape...forget it. You are incapable of intelligent conversation. The bias is typical. Good day sir! And best of luck with Biden. You will need it. But don’t fret...hunter and his 50000 a month will be spent wisely. Such a joke

hermit thrush

yes, biden is on tape ... saying absolutely nothing wrong.

hermit thrush

it is funny that hugh hewitt, a guy who was recently on tv calling for a war with venezuela to unite our country, is here sharing his thoughts on gaffes.


I don't believe it's going to be the "record player" comment that's going to end Biden's campaign, it going to be the exposure of how Joe Biden used threats to cut off American aid unless the investigation into Hunter Biden was stopped.


Bingo. He is on record saying it which is worse. And, to add to the comedy, the reporters laughed at it! The more I watch trump he is very similar to these guys. Obama and Biden were extremely shady...this guy now just gets called out on it. Shame on the main stream media.

hermit thrush

shame on you for comparing barack obama in any way to what we have in the white house now. my god.


No sir. Shame on you and the constant hate. Biden is a fool and corrupt. Obama was better at it...a nice guy who lied through his teeth. Trump is just a sideshow so I suppose on that you may be right. Don’t you dare converse with me that way. I don’t do that to you me hermit. Shame on you sir!

hermit thrush

you mean biden's campaign is going to be derailed by lies and smears?

i mean, i'm not saying you're wrong. the republican party has no interest in the truth and the mainstream media is usually pretty happy to coddle them.



But hey, your the expert

And, I am not a republican.

Your talking about truth? Same person who condemned kavanaugh based on lies. Sorry man, your credibility is limited to CNN. Maybe huffington post.

And for the record...I didn’t and won’t vote for trump. I will certainly not vote for any of the democratic candidates. Talk about choosing from evils.

hermit thrush

my comment was a reply to holmes (the fake one), not you. while we're at, here are some links about john solomon for you to enjoy: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-a-conservative-columnist-helped-push-a-flawed-ukraine-narrative/2019/09/26/1654026e-dee7-11e9-8dc8-498eabc129a0_story.html https://talkingpointsmemo.com/prime/better-call-paul-2

hermit thrush

and another point on the biden story. if there was a problem with what he was doing, why did exactly zero republicans complain about it at the time?

(the answer is that he was simply working on behalf of the obama administration, not pushing his own personal agenda for his son's benefit, and it was a totally uncontroversial aspect of our foreign policy.)

hermit thrush

"Still, when Joe Biden went to Ukraine, he was not trying to protect his son — quite the reverse.

The then-vice president issued his demands for greater anti-corruption measures by the Ukrainian government despite the possibility that those demands would actually increase – not lessen — the chances that Hunter Biden and Burisma would face legal trouble in Ukraine." https://theintercept.com/2019/09/25/i-wrote-about-the-bidens-and-ukraine-years-ago-then-the-right-wing-spin-machine-turned-the-story-upside-down/

hermit thrush

Chris Murphy


FYI, the Obama Administration wanted Ukraine's prosecutor fired, in part, because he WASN'T investigating Burisma (the company Hunter Biden was connected to). Here's our Ambassador's speech in 2015 excoriating the prosecutor for NOT taking on Burisma.


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