An Open Letter To The 'Biden Has Dementia' Bullies

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Leigh Vogel/Getty

There was no shortage of lies and misinformation the Trump campaign launched against Joe Biden over the past several months. The disinformation ranged from uninformed, fear-mongering (no, Biden is not actually a socialist) to cruel bullying. Among the more harmful and offensive of Trumpers’ lies about Biden: that he has dementia.

Anyone who knows someone with dementia knows just how much of a lie this is.

Sure, Biden sometimes stumbles over his words. But this is not the result of dementia or mental decline. To suggest otherwise is just plain cruel.

At this point, everyone should know that Biden overcame a stutter. He’s been open about this struggle, even mentoring kids who have the same challenges.

“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter. And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”

Is Biden always a smooth-as-silk speaker? No. Is he a kind and caring and mentally stable human? You bet.

Let me be very clear: If you’re gonna go there, with those “Sleepy Joe” memes, your “he has dementia” nonsense, and the stutter jokes a la Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you are quite simply an asshole.

These comments about Biden having dementia aren’t just wrong, they are harmful and offensive. They are ableist and mean.

These aren’t just political distractions either. Cruelty is the whole point. Remember this summer when Trump bragged about acing the Montreal Cognitive Test (the person-woman-man-camera-tv test)? Well, he should have aced it. To not “ace” it would be a sign that that Trump himself likely has dementia or mental decline. So no, it wasn’t a sign of mental superiority.

That test – and its results – are painfully real for many people and their families. Just like dementia is. Trump parading around about it is just another example of his cruelty and total lack of even one ounce of empathy. Accusations that Biden’s speech pattern indicate cognitive decline only show a complete and utter lack of compassion on the part of those making those accusations.

Not only are these comments hurtful to those of us dealing with dementia in our families, but they are ableist and offensive to kids and families dealing with a stutter or other speech conditions. Kids like Brayden Harrington, the 13-year-old who connected with Biden due to their shared stutter.

According to Good Morning America, Brayden first met Biden on the campaign trail in his home state of New Hampshire in February. “He told me we were members of the same club,” Brayden said of their first meeting. “We stutter. It was really amazing to hear that someone like me became vice president.”


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Biden stayed in touch with Brayden and his family, and even offered tips to help Brayden with his condition. President-Elect Biden went public with his speech impediment in 2015, when he was Vice President, in a letter he wrote to the Stuttering Foundation of America. “I personally understand the terrible fear and frustration of a stutter,” Biden wrote. “My stutter embarrassed me and made me question myself and my abilities daily.”

GMA reports that today Biden works with 25 other kids who stutter, giving them tips on things that worked for him as a child. Among those tips: reading poems by William Butler Yeats aloud and changing speeches to make the words easier to deliver. Brayden told GMA he credits the President-Elect Biden for changing his perspective about his stutter.

“Before, my No. 1 fear was my stutter, and that was close to the scariest thing in my life, and now… I’ve seen that as a gift,” said Brayden. “I have seen that as a way to improve myself mentally and physically, and I feel like I’ve really grown from meeting him.”

This is what kindness looks like. This is empathy and compassion. And to twist Biden’s challenges around to make it seem like he’s mentally unfit for office is hurtful to those who stutter, those dealing with dementia, and pretty much anyone with a caring heart.

So no, Biden’s speech patterns do not mean he has dementia. His occasional misstatements and flubbed words say absolutely nothing about his mental fitness. But if you’re spreading these lies, it absolutely does say something about you.

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