HOUSTON — Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro did not pass up the chance to take a swing at former Vice President Joe Biden in his first answer during the Democratic debates Thursday night in an exchange about healthcare — and made it a personal attack on Biden’s memory.
“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro said to the former vice president, who is several decades his elder. He reiterated the question a few more times to Biden, who rejected the claim.
“You do not have to buy in,” Biden repeated, defending his healthcare plan.
“I can’t believe you just said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now, now you’re saying you don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that?” Castro retorted.
Castro’s attack went after Biden’s cognition — something that’s been in the news repeatedly as Biden makes gaffes on the campaign trail. But it seemed like a low blow judging by the crowd’s reaction: Audience members at Texas Southern University audibly gasped.
The fight broke out when Castro pointed out to Biden that fact-checkers had determined a healthcare claim he made at the last debates to be false.
“I know that the problem with your plan is that it leaves 10 million people uncovered,” he said turning to the former vice president. Castro — who served in the Obama administration — took a page from Biden’s book, aligning himself with the former president, who still has very high approval ratings with Democrats.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you are not,” the secretary said.
Biden quipped back: “That'll be a surprise to him.”
Castro explained that in his healthcare plan, if a person loses their job and their private healthcare coverage, that person would automatically be enrolled in a public Medicare for All plan — for Biden’s, you would need to opt in.
VICE News Washington Bureau Chief Shawna Thomas contributed to this report.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke looks on as former housing secretary Julian Castro speaks during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)