By Tim Reid
INDIANOLA, Iowa, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden accused rival Bernie Sanders’s campaign on Saturday of disseminating a "doctored" video which falsely shows Biden supporting the privatization of Social Security, and called on the Sanders campaign to disown it.
Former Vice President Biden, who had just been asked at an Iowa campaign event about rumors that he wants to cut Social Security, said he does not want to cut the government-run retirement and disability program. He then lambasted the campaign of Sanders, a progressive standard-bearer and rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Biden said "Bernie’s people" had put out a "doctored video" that appeared to show him agreeing with Republican former House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan that Social Security should be privatized.
"It’s simply a lie, that video is a lie," Biden said. "I’m looking for his campaign to come forward and disown it but they haven’t done it yet."
After Biden’s comments, his campaign said the candidate was referring to recent claims by Sanders that Biden has proposed cutting Social Security in the past. The Sanders campaign has pointed to a speech Biden gave to the Brookings Institution think tank in 2018, when Biden said of Ryan’s plan to reform the tax code: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What’s the first thing he decided we had to after? Social Security and Medicare."
The Sanders campaign first quoted Biden from this speech in a recent newsletter.
What seems clear from a video of the speech is that Biden was actually mocking Ryan for the proposal. He leans into the microphone and says in a deep, menacing stage whisper: "Social Security and Medicare." Biden then goes on to say – in remarks not disseminated by the Sanders campaign – that the tax code needs to be reformed so enough revenue is raised to save Social Security and Medicare.
PolitiFact rated the Sanders newsletter as false. Reuters asked the Sanders campaign to respond to Biden’s allegation, but there was no initial response.
Biden is locked in a tight, four-way race in Iowa, according to opinion polls, with Sanders, a U.S. senator, Elizabeth Warren, a fellow U.S. senator and liberal, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Iowa on Feb. 3 kicks off the party’s nominating contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November. (Reporting by Tim Reid; editing by Jonathan Oatis)