Joe Biden communications director Kate Bedingfield struggled to explain her boss's abrupt shift on the Hyde Amendment this week, claiming Friday it wasn't about politics despite supporting the unpopular position within his party for decades.
Biden has long supported the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for most abortions, citing his personal beliefs. Then last month, he appeared to tell an ACLU representative that he would end it as president, but he reaffirmed to NBC News this week that he supported it. After a fierce left-wing backlash, he announced Thursday he was against the Hyde Amendment, citing recent pro-life laws passed around the country.
The 2020 frontrunner was clearly alone among his fellow candidates on the issue before joining the fold. One New York Times reporter summed up Biden's dizzying views on the issue as "head-spinning."
In March, Biden’s staff told me they had no comment on Hyde beyond his decades-long position of support. Last month, he told a woman on a rope line he was against it. This week, his campaign said he misunderstood the Q & did support it. And now, he’s against it. Head-spinning. https://t.co/iAjzYuax8F
— Lisa Lerer (@llerer) June 7, 2019
This kind of back-and-forth on abortion isn't a new thing for Biden. As I wrote in March, struggling with the issue has been a hallmark of his four decades in federal office. https://t.co/8Vn8JfWfsz https://t.co/t75TsvT4a3
— Lisa Lerer (@llerer) June 7, 2019
CNN host Brianna Keilar pushed Bedingfield to explain the rapid shift on her program Friday.
"This is not a decision about politics. This is a decision about health care," Bedingfield said, pointing to Biden's comments about the new abortion laws.
Keilar asked when it became an issue about health care, rather than religion or morality.
"It is an issue about health care access, and you heard him say that last night," Bedingfield said. "The Vice President feels like in this moment of crisis on choice that he does not want to be for closing off any avenue for women receiving the health care that they need."
"That has been the argument of people who support abortion rights for quite some time now," Keilar said. "Why this change now? If you're trying to convince people that this isn't about political expediency … don't you have to explain substantively how he changes his mind from Wednesday to Thursday on an issue as significant as this?"
Bedingfield said it was a "tough personal decision," but Keilar asked what the "inflection point" was for him. Bedingfield pointed to Biden's role in stopping Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork from being confirmed in 1987 as evidence of his strength on protecting abortion rights.
"We're talking about the Hyde Amendment," Keilar said. "What was the thing that changed his mind?"
Bedingfield again pointed to the current wave of pro-life laws, but Keilar countered that was also the situation on Wednesday, when he still publicly supported the Hyde Amendment.
"He says in his book, ‘I've made life difficult for myself by putting intellectual consistency and personal principle above expediency,'" Keilar recited.
Bedingfield said she'd answered Keilar's question, to which the host replied, "I don't think you've answered it, Kate."
She wouldn't answer Keilar's direct question as to whether Biden had been shown negative polling for his Hyde position within the party, responding it was a tough decision "he wrestled with."
"He looked at the, the, um, uh, you know—like I said, he looked at the crisis that we're facing on choice in this country and made that decision, and that's authentic to who he is," Bedingfield said.
Keilar said Biden hadn't explained his evolution on a serious issue.
"He did. He explained it last night," Bedingfield said.
The Atlantic reported Biden faced pressure from within his campaign as well to renounce his earlier position.