Joe Biden made a double gaffe when he unveiled his picks for his health and COVID-19 response team Tuesday, as he mispronounced Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra’s name and said he planned to appoint him to the role of ‘Secretary of Health and Education Services’.
The President-elect formally announced Tuesday afternoon his choice for several top healthcare roles which, if confirmed, will soon be tasked with tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Among his announcements, he unveiled California attorney general and former congressman Becerra as his pick to head up the health department.
But Biden botched the announcement at his event in Wilmington, Delaware.
Joe Biden made a double gaffe Tuesday, as he mispronounced Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra’s name and said he planned to appoint him to the role of ‘Secretary of Health and Education Services
‘For Secretary of Health and Education Services, I nominate Xavier Bacheria,’ Biden said, mispronouncing both his surname and getting the health department’s title incorrect.
The former vice president then seemed to stumble over his teleprompter.
‘You know, Xavier Becerra… excuse me,’ Biden said, before carrying on and later correctly pronouncing Becerra’s name as well as correctly referring to the HHS.
Republicans were quick to jump to mock the slip-up on social media.
‘Joe Biden defeated AGAIN by the Teleprompter. “For Secretary of Health and Education Services, I nominate Xavier Bacheria.” Joe Biden is a mess. It’s Health and Human Services,’ wrote RNC member Steve Guest on Twitter.
‘And it’s Xavier Becerra. Biden doesn’t know the the cabinet office or name of the official.’
Deputy Director of Communications for Rapid Response for President Trump’s 2020 campaign Matt Wolking replied: ‘My god… it’s like he’s hearing about his pick for the first time.’
The President-elect formally announced Tuesday afternoon his choice for several top health care roles which, if confirmed, will soon be tasked with tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic including Becerra as his pick to lead the health department
‘For Secretary of Health and Education Services, I nominate Xavier Bacheria,’ Biden said, mispronouncing both his surname and getting the health department’s title incorrect
Biden, who has suffered from a stutter throughout his life, made a series of gaffes on the presidential campaign trail.
Back in October, while speaking to auto workers on a campaign trip to Ohio he told supporters he was running ‘for the Senate’ not the president.
The same month he mispronounced the first name of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
On election day during his final pit stop on his campaign, he then introduced his granddaughter Finnegan as his late son Beau Biden, then called her by her cousin Natalie’s name, before finally correctly introducing Natalie as Beau’s daughter to a crowd of supporters in Philadelphia.
After the initial slip on Tuesday, Biden went on to explain his reasons for picking Becerra and outlined his experience making him a good fit for the role.
‘He currently is Attorney General of California, leading the second largest justice department in America, only behind the United States Department of Justice,’ said Biden.
Republicans were quick to jump to mock the slip-up on social media
‘And for nearly 25 years before that he was a congressman representing Los Angeles – one of America’s largest most diverse cities.’
He reeled off some of Becerra’s record in healthcare including ‘fighting to expand access to healthcare, reducing racial healthcare disparities and protecting the Affordable Care Act’.
‘As HHS Secretary he will oversee the CDC, FDA, Medicare and Medicaid. No matter what happens in the Supreme Court he will lead on efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower healthcare and prescription drugs costs.’
Biden added: ‘He is also the first Latino to lead the HHS, the son of a working class immigrant family who came from Mexico. A true public servant who has dedicated his career to the service of the people of this country.’
Biden reeled off some of Becerra’s record in healthcare including ‘fighting to expand access to healthcare, reducing racial healthcare disparities and protecting the Affordable Care Act’
Becerra had been touted as a leading contender to fill Harris’ Senate term and was also rumored to be a candidate to lead the Justice Department but, in the past few days, he moved to the front of the line for HHS.
Biden was reported to be impressed with Becerra’s personal story, his skill in defending the Affordable Care Act in courts and his advocacy for mental health issues and greater health coverage for women.
As attorney general in California, Becerra led 20 states and the District of Columbia in a legal campaign to protect Obamacare from being dismantled by Republicans.
He’s also filed many lawsuits against Trump administration policies on immigration, which made him a hero to the progressive wing of the party.
But this could also make for a tough confirmation battle in the Republican-led Senate.
Becerra’s appointment will also help silence critics who have said there has not been enough diversity among the President-elect’s picks.
He is the second Latino that Biden has chosen after picking Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant, to head the Department of Homeland Security.
JOE BIDEN’S PICKS FOR TOP JOBS
SECRETARY OF STATE: Anthony Blinken
Obama’s deputy national security advisor then deputy secretary of state with long history as a Democratic staffer including for then senator-Biden. Fluent in French having been brought up partly in Paris, he is stepson of a Holocaust survivor.
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Janet Yellen
First woman to chair the Federal Reserve who would also become first woman to run the Treasury. Harvard then Berkeley academic who chaired Bill Clinton’s council of economic advisers before holding series of Federal Reserve roles, and whose research is in labor markets.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Lloyd Austin
Retired four-star general who led CENTCOM, the military command which covers the Middle East before retiring in 2016. Led troops in combat in Iraq and would become the first black Pentagon chief. Will have to get waiver to join cabinet because military are supposed to wait seven years.
SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Alejandro Mayorkas
Cuban-born Mayorkas would be first Latino to lead Homeland Security. He was Obama’s deputy secretary of Homeland Security and a former director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Was the main architect of DACA, the program for illegal immigrants who arrived as children.
SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Xavier Becerra
Currently California’s attorney general and a former congressman. Surprise pick led litigation at Supreme Court to keep Obamacare from being struck down and pushed for single-payer healthcare while in Congress. Born to Mexican immigrants and first in family to attend college.
SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Marcia Fudge
Former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus a long-term Biden ally and also campaigned for Kamala Harris during her failed presidential run. Seven-term north-east Ohio rep will have to leave the House, slimming an already wafer-thin Democratic majority but her district is heavily Democratic
WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Ron Klain
One of Biden’s longest-standing aides. Most recently was Ebola czar at the tail-end of the Obama administration and was both Al Gore and Joe Biden’s chief of staff when they were vice president. Veteran fixer has alternated Democratic government service with lobbying and lucrative advisory roles.
UNITED NATIONS AMBASSADOR: Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Career diplomat spent 35 years in the State Department and was ambassador to Liberia and assistant secretary of State for African Affairs before being fired by Trump. One of the most prominent black female diplomats in Washington, she was an advisor with Madeline Albright’s consultancy group during the Trump years. Grew up in segregated Louisiana.