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Opinion: Are the elderly OK to attack? A recent column makes readers wonder

Joe Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden, seen at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 8, 2019, was one of three candidates a columnist referred to as “geezers.”
(Getty Images)

On Thursday, op-ed columnist Virginia Heffernan did not say explicitly that advanced age precludes someone from running for office. But reading the letters we’ve published responding to her piece, you might get the impression that Heffernan’s piece, headlined “The Democrats’ crotchety geezer shtick is wearing thin,” was a bigoted verbal assault on people over a certain age.

These letter writers weren’t the only readers upset by the column. In fact, as of this writing, all but two of the more than two dozen submissions we’ve received in response to the piece accuse Heffernan of having expressed ageist animus toward the three male Democratic candidates she labels “geezers.” Here is what some of those readers have to say.

Larry Macedo of West Hills says Heffernan made liberal use of stereotypes:

Heffernan repeatedly used words that stereotype older people — for example, “geezer,” “crotchety,” “geriatric” and “doddering.” Would the Los Angeles Times allow similar stereotypical words to be used to describe other groups of people such as African Americans, Latinos or women? I don’t think so, but the same guidelines don’t seem to apply to persons of advanced age.

Overall, Heffernan’s piece was demeaning of older people. She said the “geezer trio” of candidates seem to have lost their “capacity to be taught” and their “cognitive flexibility.” She referred to using an “ear horn” and claimed that these people must be “mystified” by some modern concepts.

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In fact, the candidates she targeted are all extremely accomplished people with a decent chance of becoming our next president. What must Heffernan think of less accomplished people?

I found the article very offensive.

Daniel J. Stone of Beverly Hills appreciates the experience that age brings:

It’s unfortunate that in a time of supposed political correctness, a columnist can exploit a social stereotype like “crotchety geezer” for a cheap political hack job. Haven’t we progressed to the point where candidates can be evaluated on their experience and their positions?

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Perhaps Heffernan hasn’t noticed that Democratic voters have had the opportunity to choose candidates younger than the “geezers” and have largely passed. After three years of amateurish governance, fakery and lies, depth of experience and authenticity might just make this the year of the geezer.

If Heffernan has sour grapes about that, the polls suggest she’ll reap a bountiful harvest with the South Carolina primary.

Julie Griffith of La Verne didn’t take Heffernan’s column seriously at first:

A friend of mine who is an advocate for the elderly posted a link to this breathtakingly ageist column on social media. She was outraged, and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t meant as a satire, so I looked it up.

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Unfortunately, the columnist seems to have meant every word.

Seriously, what is wrong with the L.A. Times? Would you have published this if it concerned the candidates’ ethnicity or gender? What makes it all right to ridicule their ages?

I will rethink continuing my subscription.


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