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Joe Biden claims 'lying dog-faced pony soldier' joke is from John Wayne film

Former vice president's bizarre comment raises questions about campaign behaviour

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 10 February 2020 17:25 GMT
Joe Biden repeats quip that voter is a 'dog-faced lying pony soldier,' quoting John Wayne film

Joe Biden called a woman who asked him to account for his poor performance in the Iowa caucus a "lying, dog-faced pony soldier", an apparent joke muddling several John Wayne references, but one that has raised more questions about the former vice president's approach to voters on the campaign trail.

Mr Biden, once considered the frontrunner among Democratic candidates, likely finished in fourth place in Iowa, more than 10 percentage points behind Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, as the Iowa Democratic Party untangles the results from its contentious polling.

At an event in New Hampshire on Sunday ahead of that state's primary election on Tuesday, 21-year-old student Madison Moore asked Mr Biden whether voters should believe the candidate can win the general election after his poor showing in Iowa.

He said: "It was a Democratic caucus. Ever been to a caucus?"

Ms Moore nodded yes.

He replied: "Sure you haven't. You're a lying, dog-faced pony soldier ... It was a little bit confusing in Iowa, number one."

His most recent "jab" was met with laughter - and confusion. His campaign said the line was from a film starring John Wayne in which a Native American chief calls him a "lying, dog-faced pony soldier".

He's even used the line before - at an event supporting North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp in 2018, he used the phrase to describe her opponent Kevin Cramer. Mr Biden told the crowd: "As my brother who loves to use lines from movies, from John Wayne movies, there's a line in a movie, a John Wayne movie where an Indian chief turns to John Wayne and says, 'This is a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.'"

But Mr Biden's references to John Wayne's sentimental westerns - mashing together lines from 1949's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and 1953's Hondo, as well as Tyronne Power-starring Pony Soldier - don't include that quote.

Mr Biden has been criticised for his short fuse and impatience with difficult or confrontational questions on the campaign trail, even telling several potential voters to vote for someone else when pressed on his positions on immigration and climate change.

At a campaign even in Iowa in December, Mr Biden called another man a "damn liar" after he brought up his son Hunter's role in the Ukraine scandal at the centre of Donald Trump's impeachment investigation, then challenged him to a pushup contest and told him he was "too old" to vote for Mr Biden.

That voter, an 83-year-old farmer, later told reporters he supports Elizabeth Warren.

Former Iowa state official Ed Fallon told The Independent he was shocked that Mr Biden told him to "vote for someone else" after he asked the candidate to clarify his position on the construction of oil pipelines. Mr Biden also accused him of supporting Mr Sanders and grabbed his lapels after he told him he needed his support in the primary, not the general election.

On Sunday, Ms Moore said she had nervously nodded "yes" when Mr Biden asked her if she had attended caucus, but she told The Washington Post it was "totally irrelevant whether I've been to a caucus or not" and his "inability to answer a simple question from a nobody college student like me only exacerbates that reality".

She said that Mr Biden didn't have the same excuse as Ms Warren, Mr Sanders or Amy Klobuchar, sitting senators who were at Donald Trump's impeachment trial during the lead-up to Iowa: "He had Iowa to himself. And then you've been a politician for, like, decades - how are you not way above all the other candidates?"

After the event, Mr Biden even admitted to reporters that it was a fair question to ask.

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