“The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking,” said President Joe Biden on Wednesday
Then Candidate Joe Biden campaigned to make politics polite again, calling for unity and an end to our nation’s “civil war” in his inaugural address. However, President Biden’s tone, and especially the words he used on Wednesday, was in stark contrast.
While responding to reporters on Mississippi and Texas by lifting the mask mandates even though the novel coronavirus pandemic is far from over, Biden noted it was a “big mistake” before adding, “The last thing we do need is Neanderthal thinking. “
Biden’s comments were in response to Texas Governor Greg Abbott who said he would end the state’s Covid-19 measures next Wednesday, while Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he would lift mask requirements this week . Both Abbott and Reeves are Republicans.
Reeves appeared on FoxNews Wednesday in response to Biden’s choice of words: “When President Biden said we were all Neanderthals, it struck me as someone who has to be out of Washington, DC, and actually travel to Central America.”
There was anger on social media in response to Biden’s comments on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
“Freedom of Choice for Americans: ‘Neanderthal Thinking’ Open Borders to Illegal Immigrants with COVID: ‘Compassion’,” tweeted Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) (@DanCrenshawTX)
Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) (@LindseyGrahamSC) also vocalized: “If Texan policy to return to normal after a vaccine is developed and distributed is ‘Neanderthals’, what do you call the Biden? Government decision To release migrants to the US who have tested positive for COVID-19? “
Then he added: “Even ‘Neanderthals’ would say the Biden policy makes no sense!”
A number of conservative experts joined the fight, calling out the president’s comments – especially since it comes little more than a month after his calls for unity.
“So Joe ‘Mr Civlility’ [sic] Biden called the people of Mississippi and Texas NEANDERTHALS. What a childish name. Joe, you promised to be BEAUTIFUL during the campaign, do you remember? “Remarked Greg Kelly (@gregkellyusa), host of Greg Kelly Reports.
Joel Pollak (@joelpollak), senior editor at Breitbart News, said more directly, “Let me get this right … President @JoeBiden called millions of Americans ‘Neanderthals’? Is that correct?”
The new unfortunate
A number of users on social media did not seem offended but spoke up and suggested they adopt the nickname.
Tricia Flanagan (@NewDayForNJ), who ran unsuccessfully to represent New Jersey to the U.S. Senate, was one of those who compared Biden’s choice of words made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “At first Hillary said we were unfortunate, now Joe Biden says we’re Neanderthals – all because we love American freedoms. Why do Democrats hate freedom so much?”
Jack Lombardi (@JackLombardi), who announced that he is running for Congress to represent the 16th District of Illinois, shared a similar sentiment: “Neanderthals are the new unfortunate ones. Where are my Neanderthals ?!”
Likewise, the Young Conservatives of Texas (@yct) simply wrote: “We are now the Young Neanderthals of Texas”.
Right-wing commentator and TV host John Cardillo (@johncardillo) shot the president: “Neanderthals were far more cognitively sensible than Biden, so it could have been an unintended compliment.”
Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles), host of The Michael Knowles Show on DailyWire, also mocked President Biden. “A grave charge from Biden, who knew many Neanderthals in his youth.”
Support Biden’s words
Many leftists actually spoke out and supported the president’s use of Neanderthals in light of the decision by Texas and Mississippi lawmakers to relax coronavirus restrictions at this point.
Former National Assistant Secretary Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) mocked those who criticized the President: “BIDEN: GOPers who spread COVID by eliminating masks are Neanderthals. GOP: Neanderthals are great and we are happy to be them. “
“I am realizing that Neanderthals are extinct. Also, the virus remains highly contagious and fatal to some. Please wash your hands frequently, distance yourself socially, and wear a mask in public. Protect your family,” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) (@Tedlieu)
S&P Global Platts senior editor and reporter Jordan Blum (@ JDBlum23) was equally direct: “Is Biden trying to cancel Neanderthals, or did evolution / nature / disease do it 40,000 years ago? #CancelCulture”
Podcaster Brian Tyler Cohen (@NoLieWithBTC) added, “Joe Biden owes Neanderthals an apology for comparing them to the governors of Texas and Mississippi. Neanderthals were indeed adaptable beings willing to use tools to help themselves and others protect.”
A few notable memes also made the rounds Thursday making fun of Republican lawmakers.
The bipartisan answer
There were even some posts on social media that were less partisan about Neanderthals.
Ashley Schapitl (@AshleySchapitl), chief communications advisor on the Senate Finance Committee, remarked, “Neanderthals were also only found in Europe and Asia FWIW.”
And a user on social media, Jake Nelson (@JakeNelsonMN) also addressed whether the Neanderthals are as derogatory as they might once have been. He tweeted, “When you think about how attitudes towards Neanderthals have changed dramatically the more evidence there is that Neanderthal DNA is disproportionately high in modern humans in people of European descent, I’m sure.”
However, it may be Nelson’s answer that is most appropriate at the moment. Politicians need to tone down hostility, and it’s easy to see that President Biden was too quick to use a word that could be viewed as culturally insensitive but also offensive. It was undoubtedly an off-the-shelf remark, but the fact that it came from the man calling for unity shows how far we still have to go to actually unite.