Former Vice-President Joe Biden has had to clarify his praise of Vice-President Mike Pence as a “decent guy” amid criticism from LGBT advocates online.
Mr Biden made the remark at a foreign policy conference on Thursday, later tweeting: “There is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights.”
Mr Pence, a Christian evangelical, has repeatedly expressed views seen as anti-LGBT.
The row comes as Mr Biden is expected to announce a 2020 presidential bid.
Speaking at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Mr Biden, 76, brought up his successor in a discussion of last month’s Munich Security Conference, where Mr Pence delivered remarks.
The audience was left silent after Mr Pence offered greetings from President Donald Trump during a speech at the event.
“It was followed on by a guy who’s a decent guy, our vice-president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence. Dead silence,” Mr Biden said, CNN reported.
Critics were quick to condemn the remarks online, with some saying such gaffes were why Mr Biden would never win a presidential nomination.
Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon, a New York Democrat who is openly gay, asked Mr Biden to “consider how [his comment] falls on the ears of our community”, calling Mr Pence the country’s “most anti-LGBT elected leader”.
Mr Biden then clarified he was just “making a point in a foreign policy context”.
“But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”
You’re right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn’t be given a silent reaction on the world stage.
But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) February 28, 2019
Mr Biden and Mr Pence reportedly last spoke in the summer of 2017.
Before becoming vice-president, Mr Pence expressed support for the controversial practice of gay conversion therapy and other policies viewed as discriminatory.
In 2018, he became the first vice-president to speak at the annual conference for the Family Research Council, an openly anti-LGBT group.
On Friday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham came to Mr Biden’s defence, adding: “It doesn’t hurt to say something nice about a possible opponent.”
If @JoeBiden runs for President, I will have many policy disagreements with him. However, I believe him to be one of the most decent and honest people I’ve ever known in politics.He is a good man. (1/2) https://t.co/uolHtvdUq0 — Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) March 1, 2019
See, it doesn’t hurt to say something nice about a possible opponent.
Could any Dem today say something nice about President @realdonaldTrump or @VP Mike Pence?— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) March 1, 2019