Presidential candidate Julián Castro faced a wave of criticism after he went after former Vice President Joe Biden during the Democratic debate Thursday night in Houston.
Answering a question about what some of the candidates were proposing for healthcare policy, Castro said Biden’s plan would leave 10 million people uninsured by requiring people to opt into health insurance.
“I would not require them to opt in, they would automatically be enrolled,” Castro said. “Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered.”
“They do not have to buy in,” Biden replied. “They do not have to buy in.”
“You just said that two minutes ago,” Castro said, as he and Biden began to talk over each other. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”
The moment kicked off a tense exchange that led South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg to say, “This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable.”
Viewers took notice, too, seeing it as an attack on the former vice president’s age and memory. A review of the debate transcript shows that Castro was not entirely correct: Biden had said that Americans who lose their jobs can “automatically buy in” to health insurance coverage.
On Twitter, Pat Cunnane, formerly a senior writer for President Obama, wrote that Castro represented the worst of what a debate is.
He later added, “I can’t get over Castro’s cringeworthy, unsubtle, repeated jabs at Biden’s memory/age and his suggestion that he’s somehow serving Obama better than his two-term Vice President. Drop out.”
Man, I was getting on Twitter to be positive about the #DemDebate tonight. But I can’t get over Castro’s cringeworthy, unsubtle, repeated jabs at Biden’s memory/age and his suggestion that he’s somehow serving Obama better than his two-term Vice President. Drop out.— Pat Cunnane (@PatCunnane) September 13, 2019
While some saw Castro’s confrontation as holding Biden accountable, others called it a low blow and petty attack from the former Housing secretary. CNN commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas called it “ageist.”
Very ham handed attack by Castro going after Biden on age. Castro is going to learn it didn't help Harris or Cooker in the first two debates.— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) September 13, 2019
Another Twitter user wrote that she lost “any and all” respect for Castro.“He’s attacked his colleagues twice — viciously so. I have no time or patience for Trump-style vitriol,” the user wrote.
Someone has re-watched that segment several times. Biden DID NOT say people would have to enroll in medicare for all.— Helen Armstrong (@HelenArmstrong5) September 13, 2019
I've just lost any & all respect for @JulianCastro
He's attacked his colleagues twice - viciously so. I have no time or patience for Trump-style vitriol. https://t.co/GT2SixT264