The incident occurred at the "LGBTQ Presidential Forum" hosted by GLAAD and the Iowa Gazette on Friday. One of the Gazette's writers, Lyz Lenz, seemed to question Biden's progressive bona fides when she asked about his opposition to the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy and a compliment he paid to Vice President Mike Pence.
"You have also praised Vice President Mike Pence as a decent guy," Lenz said, drawing boos from the crowd. "You're a lovely person," Biden shot back with a smile on his face.
Lenz defended herself, saying that she was just "asking the questions that people want to know." According to some, like Time Magazine editor Anand Giridharadas, Biden's response was related to the moderator's gender.
"Last week, Joe Biden gave us an occasion to talk about 'racism with a smile.' Now he’s doing 'sexism with a smile.' Watch him grow angry at @lyzl's solid question -- and then try to slap her down in the most patronizing way," Giridharadas tweeted on Saturday.
Jamil Smith, a senior writer at Rolling Stone, similarly accused Biden of "Paleolithic behavior." "I admire Lyz’s professionalism in this moment," he tweeted.
"Sad that it was even necessary. Biden keeps exhibiting this kind of Paleolithic behavior, and too many folks will excuse it because they’re used to seeing their male elders act like way. There is no such thing as benevolent sexism."
Others piled on with critical tweets on Saturday. After the exchange on Friday, Lenz hinted that Biden continued his sarcasm as she walked off the stage.
Biden's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The former vice president has also faced scrutiny for allegedly inappropriately touching women and his longtime support of the Hyde Amendment, a policy blocking taxpayer funding of most abortions. Biden announced he had changed his stance and opposed the Hyde Amendment earlier this year, shortly after his run for the presidency.