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“It is hurtful”: Biden speaks of the attacks on him and son Hunter

Former vice president Joe Biden speaks to supporters with his wife Jill Biden at his side while they await results during Biden’s caucus night event at Drake University in Des Moines. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

Joe Biden, who has been criticized by some in his party for his willingness to promote bipartisan bonhomie, offered some of his most extensive comments Thursday on the toll taken by the harsh Republican criticism of him and his son Hunter.

Referring to President Trump, Biden said on ABC’s “The View,” “I would like to be able to be back in high school and just have he and I in a room.”

“But all kidding aside, here’s the deal,” he added. “It is hurtful, particularly when guys like Lindsey Graham, who is a friend of mine, do these things.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) defended Jan. 24 the idea of investigating the Bidens' involvement in the Ukraine, saying it would "help us all." (Video: The Washington Post)

Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, is a longtime Biden friend who in recent weeks has spoken of investigating Hunter Biden’s role as a board member of a Ukrainian company while Joe Biden was coordinating Ukraine policy for the Obama administration.

Biden, when asked if he still considered Graham a friend, said it was important not to hold grudges. “We’ve got to heal,” he said, adding he would not attack Trump’s children. “That’s not how we were raised.”

Biden and his wife Jill appeared on the program as Republicans have sought to turn their focus on Hunter Biden. Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president that his country investigate the Bidens was at the core of his impeachment trial, in which he was recently acquitted.

“This is a guy who’s done nothing but good things his whole life, my son,” Biden said on Thursday. “But look, it’s what it is. We knew it was going to be ugly.”

Biden recalled a family meeting called last year by his grandchildren to urge him to run for president, saying they were aware of how difficult the campaign would be. Even so, he and his wife suggested, it has been harder than anticipated.

“They’ve been really hurtful,” Jill Biden said. “I mean, to hear your son attacked — you know, I expected that Joe would be attacked. But not your children. Not your children.”

“It’s ugly,” she said at another point. “But I can take a little bit of ugly if it means Joe is going to be president.”

Biden added that Republicans would seize on whatever they could to criticize the ultimate Democratic nominee, citing recent comments by leading conservatives about Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality.

“Pete’s got some traction,” Biden said, so “they’re going after Pete for being gay.”

Earlier in the show, the hosts had played clips of Rush Limbaugh saying Trump is more manly, while talking about how Buttigieg kisses his husband onstage.

“I mean, my God,” Biden said of the clip. “It is part of the depravity of this administration … Pete and I are competitors, but this guy has honor, he has courage, he’s smart as hell.”

Former vice president Joe Biden said in Somersworth, N.H., on Feb. 5 that his presidential campaign received a "gut punch" in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa. (Video: Reuters)

Biden’s interview came at a difficult moment as he attempts to get his presidential campaign back on track. It was his first appearance on “The View” since nearly a year ago.

When the hosts asked about his poor performance in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Biden tried to refocus on his potential appeal in the next two states, Nevada and South Carolina, which have far more diverse electorates. He did not say whether he thought Democrats should alter the nominating contest to give more preference to states with bigger minority populations.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to see how this works out,” the former vice president said. “This is my last dance in terms of what’s going on … If I win the nomination and get elected president, I think things change a lot. It’s about moving forward.”

Biden generally refrained from criticizing Mike Bloomberg, but said he is eager to debate the former New York mayor on issues such as redlining by banks and stop-and-frisk policing, two policies that took aim at African Americans. But when asked about an audio tape that recently emerged of Bloomberg speaking bluntly about targeting young black males, Biden let out a laugh.

Asked why he was laughing, he responded, “I’m laughing because it’s amazing how every single thing I’ve said for the last 40 years has come up, and I’ve answered them all. We’re just now getting into the place where we’re looking at other people’s records.”

Biden has been criticized for his relationship with segregationist senators early in his career, as well as his support for school busing and for criminal justice policies that many black leaders say hurt their communities.

Biden also alluded to Bloomberg’s wealth, while saying the billionaire former mayor has not yet received enough scrutiny.

“I don’t think you can buy an election,” he said. “Look, one of the advantages and disadvantages, I’ve been the only guy through this process so far, a person that’s been totally vetted. I’ve had a target on my back since I got in.”

Asked what the media was getting wrong about his campaign, Biden launched into a discussion on the challenges of modern-day journalism.

“You gotta get clicks,” he said, reflecting on conversations he’s had with senior reporters who, he said, told him they need to stand out in a way once reserved for opinion columnists.

“You have to have a brand,” Biden said. “If you don’t get something that’s gonna get you a click, as they say, it’s hard.”