‘Why the hell would I take a test?’

WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden shrugged off a question Tuesday about taking a cognitive assessment test, which President Trump has challenged him to do — while misrepresenting what the test measures. 

In an exchange with CBS’s Errol Barnett during a wide-ranging, multi-moderator interview at a conference of Black and Latino journalists, Biden balked at Barnett’s question about whether Biden had even taken an exam.

“No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test?” responded Biden, who then posed a rhetorical analogy.

“C’mon man,” he chided Barnett. “That’s like saying, ‘You — before you got on this program you took a test where you’re taking cocaine or not, what do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?’”

Barnett followed up by asking Biden what he would say to Trump, “who brags about his test and makes your mental state an issue for voters?”

“Well, if he can’t figure out the difference between an elephant and a lion, I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” said Biden with a laugh. “Look, c’mon man, I know you’re trying to goad me, but I’m so …  looking [forward] to have an opportunity to sit or stand with the president on the debates.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Del. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump has repeatedly boasted about his mental acuity after taking the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which is commonly used to screen for dementia. In a recent interview with Fox News journalist Chris Wallace, Trump said he received perfect marks and said that Biden “could not answer those questions.”

“Let’s take a test right now. Let’s go down, Joe, and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took,” the president said.

The test does not measure intelligence and is not meant to be difficult for most people. The questions can include a simple memory test and drawing the hands on a clock. During the interview, Wallace said he took the test himself after he saw Trump tout it.

“Well, it’s not the hardest test,” the Fox host told Trump.  “They have a picture and it says, ‘What’s that?’ And it’s an elephant.”

Biden addressed the challenge Tuesday during an interview that will air Thursday at the convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The combined convention will be online this year due to the coronavirus. 

During the exchange, Biden said he would leave judgment of his mental fitness to the voters. 

“I am very willing to let the American public judge my physical and mental fitness and to make a judgment about who I am and what state of affairs I have,” he said. 

Biden has addressed Trump’s challenge before. When asked about it by a reporter at the end of July, Biden said he is “constantly tested” by actively campaigning for president.

“All you’ve got to do is watch me,” he said. “And I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.”

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