Joe Biden sparked social media chatter Sunday after jokingly referring to a woman as a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.”
The exchange occurred at a campaign event in Hampton, N.H., ahead of the state’s Democratic primary elections on Tuesday.
A young woman in the audience asked the Democratic presidential candidate about his weaker-than-expected results in the Iowa caucuses. Biden placed fourth, behind Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, though the vote count was plagued by technical difficulties.
The woman pointed out how Biden entered the race with the biggest advantage for a few reasons, including that he was vice-president of the U.S. under Barack Obama.
“How do you explain the performance in Iowa and why should the voters believe that you can win the national election?” said the woman, identified in U.S. media reports as Madison Moore, 21.
Biden said it was a good question and asked whether she’d been to a caucus herself.
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“No, you haven’t, you’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier, and you said you were, now you gotta be honest,” he said before addressing the question.
Laughter could be heard in the room.
According to Politico, Moore spoke to reporters after her exchange with Biden.
“He did give some good answers. It was a little awkward being put on the spot. But he was right. I haven’t been to a caucus. I kind of caved in the moment,” she said.
Biden, 77, has made the reference before. He attributes it to a western starring John Wayne called Hondo.
According to a script posted online, the term “pony soldier” is used a few times in the 1953 movie, but not the expression as a whole.
It’s apparently a reference to mounted law enforcement. A 1952 western called Pony Soldier had an RCMP officer in the lead role.
Remi Yamamoto, press secretary for the Biden campaign, said Biden’s comment was a joke met with “laughter in the room and from the questioner.”
“It’s from a John Wayne movie and he’s made it plenty of times before,” she said in a tweet. “Sorry to ruin the fun Twitter!”
Twitter did have some fun with the incident.
It prompted one comparison to out-of-touch Simpsons patriarch Abe Simpson. Another Twitter user called it “Weekend at Bidens,“ a reference to a 1989 movie where the characters pretend a dead man is alive.
One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s sons also weighed in.
“If he can’t handle a simple question from one of his own supporters, how can Joe Biden possibly take on Donald Trump one on one for six months?” Donald Trump Jr. said.
–With files from Reuters