Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has apologized for a tweet appearing to mock former Vice President Joe Biden when he mentioned children with speech impediments who have asked him for advice because of his own experience with a lifelong stutter during the Democratic debate.
"There's not one line I go through that I don't have at least a half a dozen people come up and hug me and say, 'Can you help me?...'" Biden said as he rounded out his debate appearance. "The little kid who says, 'I-I-I-I can't talk, what do I do?' I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with."
Biden seemed to emphasize a stutter when giving the example, though he has noticeably stuttered in public speaking engagements throughout his campaign.
In a tweet that has since been deleted, Huckabee Sanders said, "I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about."
Facing backlash from Twitter users, she tweeted a follow-up: "To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment. Simply pointing out I can't follow much of anything Biden is talking about," Huckabee Sanders said. The tweet has been deleted.
Biden quickly responded, saying that he has worked his whole life to overcome his own stutter.
"And it's my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same," Biden tweeted. "It's called empathy. Look it up."
Huckabee Sanders apologized soon after, saying she did not realize he had a stutter.
"I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable. I apologize and should have made my point respectfully," Huckabee Sanders said.
Biden's example about the child with a stutter at the debate directly followed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who brought up the stories of people she has met while taking selfies with thousands of supporters. "You're not the only one who does selfies, Senator," he said.
In a widely shared feature in The Atlantic, Biden described how his stutter impacted his childhood.
"It doesn’t—can’t define who you are," Biden said to The Atlantic.
John Hendrickson, the Atlantic writer who wrote the Biden profile and who also has a stutter, wrote in the profile that Biden seems to use past-tense language when describing his stutter, or in this case, says that he has worked to "overcome" it.
"Nobody can force Biden to say, 'I still stutter.' That's his choice, now and forever," Hendrickson tweeted. "But the confusion and mockery we're seeing right now is why people who stutter want him to say it," Hendrickson said.