Joe Biden's selection of former rival Kamala (emphasis on first syllable; "KA" as in "cop") Harris as his running mate suggested a willingness to bury the hatchet. It was also an indication of profound racial growth for an elderly white man with a history of disrespectful behavior toward journalists of color.
Biden, for example, recently snapped at Errol Barnett, a black correspondent for CBS News, in response to a question about whether the 77-year-old candidate had taken a cognitive test. "No, I haven't taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man," Biden told the black journalist. "That's like saying you, before you got in this program, you're taking a test whether you're taking cocaine or not. What do you think, huh? Are you a junkie?"
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Biden has answered similar questions from white journalists about his cognitive ability, but has not lashed out the way he did at Barnett. In June, for example, Biden was asked by Doug McKelway, a white correspondent for Fox News, if he had been "tested for some degree of cognitive decline." The former vice president not only kept his cool; he gave an entirely different answer. "I’ve been tested, I’m constantly tested," Biden told the white journalist. "Look, all you’ve got to do is watch me."
Peter Hamby, a white contributor to Vanity Fair, interviewed Biden in May, and asked the former VP to respond to the "anti-Biden memes out there on the internet," which include the moniker "Dementia Joe," and often portray Biden as "creepy and old and out of touch and kind of lame." Biden laughed off the white journalist's question, before falsely suggesting that most young people "are not getting all their news from the internet."
Barnett was not the first journalist of color to be on the receiving end of a Biden tantrum. The candidate exploded during a May 22 interview with black radio host Charlamagne tha God. After a member of Biden's staff attempted to end the interview, the former VP appeared to take issue with Charlamagne's remark that "you can't do that to black media," and with his desire to ask "more questions."
Biden became noticeably agitated at the suggestion that a member of the black media would want to know anything other than the fact that he is running against Donald Trump. "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black," Biden huffed.
Biden's tendency to express animosity toward people of color who challenge him will be put to the test now that Harris is part of the ticket. His vice-presidential selection committee reportedly worried that she might be too "ambitious" for the largely ceremonial position. Those concerns could potentially be alleviated if and when social distancing guidelines are eased to allow for closer physical contact between the candidates—specifically when it comes to the rubbing of shoulders and the smelling of hair.