Joe Biden Faces Backlash for Telling Kamala Harris to 'Go Easy on Me, Kid': 'She's a Grown Woman'

From subtle barbs to outright attacks, a presidential debate is rarely a forum where you can expect to see candidates "go easy" on one another. However, on Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden came under fire for asking California Senator Kamala Harris to do just that, as the 2020 hopefuls took the stage for night two of the second Democratic primary debates in Detroit.

As the former Vice President and California senator took the stage, Biden chose to greet Harris with the words: "Go easy on me, kid."

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris just shook hands before facing off tonight on stage for a #DemDebate rematch.

“Go easy on me, kid,” Biden told Harris.

— CNN (@CNN) August 1, 2019

While the 2020 Democratic frontrunner's quip was likely a reference to the two contenders' sparring during the first primary debate last month, many on social media condemned the comment as "sexist" and "diminishing."

"Kid? She's a grown woman Biden," wrote BAFTA-award winning television writer Dominic Mitchell.

"Come on, man. Don't be such a sexist wuss straight out the 1950s," Mitchell said.

Kid? She’s a grown woman Biden. Come on, man. Don’t be such a sexist wuss straight out the 1950s #DemDate

— Dominic Mitchell (@DomMitchell) August 1, 2019

One analysis from popular Twitter account "Feminist Next Door," accused Biden of dropping a "single sentence quip intended to simultaneously diminish Harris and characterize her as overly aggressive."

"He'll say it was a joke, which is what his supporters will claim while belittling critics as humorless and aggressive. Women know it well," the account tweeted.

Another social media user, Rev. Laura Everett, agreed, writing: "'Go easy on me, kid' may pass to some as folksy banter, but underneath is centuries of sexism and racism, and a presumption of privilege where niceness avoids critique."

Activist Susan DuFresne also condemned the remark as "blatant sexism," writing in a tweet: "While watching the beginning [of the debate] I told my husband it seemed Kamala Harris was upset-like someone said something to her. Later, heard Joe Biden told her, 'Go easy on me, KID'."

DuFresne said Biden did not seem to see the "blatant sexism" in such a statement. "That's a problem," she said.

While watching the beginning I told my husband it seemed Kamala Harris was upset - like someone said something to her. Later heard Joe Biden told her, “Go easy on me KID.” Joe doesn’t see his blatant sexism in either of these statements. That’s a problem. #DemDebate

— Susan DuFresne (@GetUpStandUp2) August 1, 2019

In an interview following the debate with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Harris said she "didn't really think much" about Biden's comment.

Asked how she felt about the former Vice President asking her to "go easy" on him, Harris said: "That's what he wanted me to do. I didn't really think much about it to be honest with you."

Questioned whether being called a "kid" bothered her, Harris was quick to say: "No."

However, after taking a pause she expanded, saying: "But, I'll tell you why. Because we're both on that stage running for president."

"I'm pretty clear about who I am," she said. "So, nobody's going to do define me on that stage."

Since launching his presidential bid, Biden has faced widespread scrutiny over his behavior towards women, with eight women coming forward to accuse the former vice president of unwanted touching or other actions and comments that have made them feel uncomfortable.

Biden has addressed the accusations laid against him, asserting that while he was apologetic for not understanding how his actions might have made women feel, he was "not sorry" for his "intentions."

Harris, Biden
Democratic presidential candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) greet each other at the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 31, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Biden asked Harris to 'go easy on me, kid,' during the exchange. Scott Olson/Getty