JOE Biden’s memory was called into question by rival Julian Castro in an uncomfortable exchange during the Democratic TV debate on Thursday.

The Democratic presidential front-runner, 76, was grilled over his mental state by Castro, 44, who turned the knife amid concerns about Biden’s advancing years.

biden - Democratic debate – Joe Biden, 76, mocked by Julian Castro, 44, who asks ‘have you forgotten what you said two minutes ago?’
Joe Biden looked shocked when his memory was called into question during Thursday’s TV debate

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Reuters

Rival Julian Castro attacked Biden in an uncomfortable exchange during the Democratic TV debate[/caption]

In a fierce clash on healthcare, Castro snapped at Biden, asking: “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?”

The comment drew audible gasps from the audience, with viewers at home branding the attack “ugly” and “disrespectful”.

Castro landed the jab while accusing Biden of contradicting himself over whether Americans would buy into a public health care option under his plan or if they would be automatically enrolled.

The implication was clear, but Castro was actually mistaken.

Two minutes before, Biden said that under his health care plan, “every single person who is diagnosed with cancer or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan.”

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Reuters

Biden looked downcast at one point during the TV clash[/caption]

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Reuters

Concerns have been raised about Biden’s advancing years[/caption]

And about 10 minutes prior to that, Biden said it more plainly: “Anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have.”

Despite these comments, Castro that Biden would “require them to opt in”.

Biden then cut in saying: “They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.”

This comment caused Castro to accuse Biden of “forgetting” what he had previously said.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, noted the exchange was what people did not like about politicians, Castro shot back: “That’s called an election.

Biden has faced increased scrutiny over his health as the race for the White House intensifies.

In Thursday’s debate, Biden also clashed with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on healthcare, defending Obamacare and accusing them of not being honest about the cost of their plans.

Biden, who served as vice president for eight years under Barack Obama, said he would build on Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

He accused Warren and Sanders of wanting to tear it down with their support for Medicare for All, a government-run healthcare plan that would eliminate private insurance.

“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie. Well I’m for Barack. I think Obamacare worked,” Biden said. “This is about candour, honesty, big ideas.”

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, who has moved into second behind Biden in opinion polls of the Democratic race to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election, praised Obama’s healthcare efforts.

NINTCHDBPICT000521421581 - Democratic debate – Joe Biden, 76, mocked by Julian Castro, 44, who asks ‘have you forgotten what you said two minutes ago?’
Reuters

Castro snapped at Biden, asking: ‘Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?’[/caption]

“Now the question is how best can we improve on it,” she said, adding that under Medicare for All, those at the top would pay more but the middle class would pay less.

Sanders, who sponsored the Medicare for All plan in the U.S. Senate, said the plan based on the existing government-run Medicare program for Americans 65 and older was the most cost-effective approach.

Some analysts have estimated his plan would cost $32 trillion over a decade.

The battle over healthcare has been the biggest area of disagreement in the Democratic race, with candidates battling on how to improve on Obamacare.

Biden said his plan would give Americans more options, including staying with their plans if they like them.

“I’ve never actually met anybody who likes their health insurance company,” Warren responded.

The debate featured the top 10 candidates for the party’s presidential nomination sharing a stage for the first time. The previous two Democratic debates in June and July were split over two nights.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang opened the debate by promising to give $1,000 a month to 10 Americans for the next year, calling it a “freedom dividend.”

The offer drew laughs from a few other contenders.

“It’s original, I’ll give you that,” Buttigieg said.

The first two rounds of debates also were contentious, as Biden came under repeated attacks for his record on race and criminal justice reform and his views on healthcare.

But several of the candidates tried to emphasise their areas of agreement and turn their criticism toward Trump.

Biden praised former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke for his work after a mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, drawing a sustained ovation from the debate crowd.

The sharp bickering during the first two rounds of the debates dismayed some Democrats, who have urged the candidates to rein in their attacks and focus on laying out their own affirmative agendas.

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