08/24/2019 04:26 pm EDT
During a presidential campaign event in New Hampshire Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden surprised an audience when he asked what would have happened if President Barack Obama was assassinated during his time in office. The strange hypothetical came up while Biden, 76, reminisced about the political turmoil in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
Biden was speaking at a town-hall-style event at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire that was meant to focus on a health care plan he revealed last month. During the event, he took questions from voters. One question led him to discuss 1968, when Biden was in his senior year of law school.
"I think of where we are at the moment. You know, none of you men are old — women are old enough, but a couple of you guys are old enough to remember. I graduated in 1968," Biden began, reports The New York Times. "Everybody before me was, drop out, go to Haight-Ashbury, don’t trust anybody over 30, everybody not getting involved. I’m serious, I know no woman will shake their head and acknowledge it, but you guys know what I’m talking about."
Biden said he only had two political heroes at the time, King and Kennedy. Both were assassinated within weeks of each other.
"My senior semester they were both shot and killed. Imagine what would have happened if, God forbid, Barack Obama had been assassinated after becoming the de facto nominee," Biden said. "What would have happened in America?"
Biden then mentioned that "things changed" and referenced the shooting of Kent State students by the National Guard, which did not happen until May 1970.
The former Delaware senator was trying to show how the unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s inspired him to start a political career. He first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1972 at age 29.
A campaign spokesman told the Times Biden has tried to compare a possible Obama assassination to the assassinations of 1968 when speaking to younger audiences who were not born yet.
Biden also suggested during his speech that his critics thought he was gay because he supported the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972.
"We finally were in a position where we started to begin the women’s movement, and began to treat women — I remember because I was such a big supporter of the E.R.A in 1972, quote — to show you how things have changed, thank God — 'Well, you know why Biden is for the E.R.A., he’s probably gay,'" he recalled. "Not a joke."
Recent polls show Biden as a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president. The New Hampshire primary is on February 11, with the Iowa caucuses scheduled for February 3.
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