Joe Biden branded a ‘disgrace’ for joking around after Nashville shooting
Joe Biden has been branded a “disgrace” for making jokes in the aftermath of the Nashville school shooting in which six people died.
In a series of ill-timed remarks, Mr Biden made a political jibe at a Republican senator, spoke about his love of ice cream before addressing the shooting, and fooled around on stage at the White House with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
He has not yet made plans to visit the Covenant School in Nashville where three nine-year-olds and three teachers were killed by a former student and his response has been branded “totally beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency of the United States”.
In some of his first public comments since the attack, Mr Biden was asked if he agrees with the theory that Christians were specifically targeted.
“I have no idea,” he replied.
When told that Republican senator Josh Hawley believes the shooting was a hate crime against Christians, a grinning Mr Biden said: “Well, I probably don’t then,” before adding: “No, I'm joking. I have no idea.”
Mr Hawley, who attends an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, wrote on Twitter: “What a disgrace. There’s nothing remotely funny about hate crimes.”
The Missouri senator appeared later on Fox News and said: “Biden should be acknowledging the targeting of people of faith.”
However, Mr Biden continued to make jokes.
On Tuesday, addressing a Women’s Business Summit at the White House, Mr Biden said: “My name is Joe Biden. I’m Dr Jill Biden’s husband. I eat Jeni’s ice cream - chocolate chip. I came down because I heard there was chocolate chip ice cream.
“By the way, I have a whole refrigerator full upstairs. You think I’m kidding? I’m not,” he added.
Only later did he address the shooting, saying it was “sick”, “heartbreaking”, and “a family’s worst nightmare”, before demanding once again that Congress pass a ban on assault weapons.
Mr Hawley branded the president’s response “totally beneath the dignity of the office of the presidency of the United States”.
“This is a guy, this is an office that has the responsibility of leading this country. Children are dead,” he added.
“To say that he misunderstood the moment would be an understatement,” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey Governor, told Fox News.
“There’s no way to talk about something like this except to say that for all of us who are parents, what we dread every day is the news about the health and life of our children,” Mr Christie added.
“And so there’s no room to joke in that circumstance at all. And certainly not from the president of the United States.”
Biden jokes with Tom Hanks
Instead of travelling to Nashville in support of the community, he spent Wednesday at the White House celebrating Greek Independence day surrounded by Greek-American politicians and community leaders.
Again, he continued to make jokes.
Actress Rita Wilson, who is of Greek descent, sang four songs during celebrations in the East Room. After her performance, Mr Biden returned to the stage to praise her, and added: “The only thing I worry about is your taste in men.”
The comment sparked laughter in the room and Ms Wilson’s husband - actor Tom Hanks - was invited onto the stage.
Continuing the joke, Mr Hanks said: “No, I am not Greek, but I had the good sense to marry one.”
The White House has not confirmed any plans for Mr Biden to visit Nashville, despite gun control supposedly being at the top of his agenda.
On Thursday he is in Washington, with nothing on his public schedule.
On Friday he is travelling to Rolling Fork, Mississippi where a tornado took the lives of 13 people last week.
On Monday, he will visit Minneapolis, Minnesota for a speech on job creation.
Kamala Harris, the vice president, is currently in Tanzania.