Beto O'Rourke Responds to Joe Biden Age, Fitness Questions: 'Who The Hell Cares?'

Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke used his increasingly common brusque manner to push aside criticisms and questions about Joe Biden's age or mental acuity.

O'Rourke, speaking on NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday, said he "could care less" about issues of political infighting, media bickering or challenges to individual candidates' mental fitness. O'Rourke and host Chuck Todd went on to discuss his Thursday debate promise to take AR-15's away from their owners and mandatory gun buybacks. But Todd first asked O'Rourke to react to fellow candidate Julián Castro's jab at Biden's memory and whether he thinks it's a "legitimate debate" to question Biden's mental fitness to be president in his late 70s.

"No, I could care less about that to be honest with you," O'Rourke said with a grin. "I was listening to your opening package, and I mean, who the hell cares, right?"

O'Rourke went on to urge news media and Americans as a whole to discuss "big things" people care about instead of personal sniping. When asked a similar question by CNN Thursday about the former vice president and polling frontrunner's mental acuity, O'Rourke similarly rebuffed the question.

"That will not defeat Donald Trump," O'Rourke replied. "That won't bring this deeply divided country back together again ... That kind of personal attack I don't think is what we need right now and is insufficient to the challenges we face."

Speaking at the same forum, fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar also pushed back against Castro's swipe at Biden's memory. "I thought that was so personal and so unnecessary," she said Thursday after the debate in Houston.

On Sunday, O'Rourke laid out what he'd rather talk about in terms of real issues facing Americans.

"You've got tens of millions of people who cannot see a doctor. In Texas, where I am right now, the largest provider of mental health care services is the county jail system. You've got 10 years left with which to confront climate change; you've got 10 years left within which to confront climate change or it is all over for all of us."

O'Rourke continued, "You've got kids in cages, families who have been separated, there's some really urgent issues that we've got to be addressing right now. The last thing I care about is Joe Biden's age or some inter-party fight between candidates up on that stage. We've got to be talking about the big things that people in this country care about."

O'Rourke labeled firearms such as the AR-15 "instruments of terror" and said that pushback from Democratic legislators about his tough "tone" during the debate "just shows you how screwed up the priorities in Washington D.C. are."

The former Texas congressman who narrowly lost the Senate race to incumbent Ted Cruz in 2018 added the details of what's behind his campaign concerns. "What's truly awful is a 17-month old baby shot in the face with an AR-15 as happened in Odessa. What's awful is 22 people killed in a Walmart...innocent of any crime or any threat...hunted down by their ethnicity."

Beto O'Rourke
Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks to the press after taking part in a Pride month run, June 12, 2019 in New York City. On Wednesday, O'Rourke pledged to reverse President Donald Trump's restrictions on transgender people serving in the military and push for passage of the Equality Act if elected president. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images