Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden quoted Mao Zedong, the former communist leader of China, during a virtual fundraiser on July 13.
“We’ve got to get real economic relief into women’s hands now,” Biden said, before telling people on the call that he wanted to cite “an old Chinese proverb.”
“Women hold up half the sky,” Biden said.
The quote was first presented by Mao in a bid to reinforce supposed government support for equality between men and women.
Mao’s rule resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese due to purges and disastrous policies.
The Biden campaign didn’t reply when asked whether Biden was aware of the phrase’s provenance.
The former vice president and U.S. senator said during the fundraiser that the economic crisis is hitting industries dominated by women.
“Unless you take advantage of half or more of your brain power, you are never going to be in the position where you’re going to be able to compete internationally,” he added. “Women. Women. Women.”
Steve Guest, a rapid-response director for the Republican National Committee, highlighted Biden’s quoting of Mao.
“REMINDER: Joe Biden is in the pocket of China,” he wrote in a social media statement.
“Chairman Mao would approve,” added Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s director of communications.
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign, praised Mao in 2009, describing the dictator as one of her two favorite political philosophers.
Mao and Mother Theresa were “the two people that I turn to the most to basically deliver a simple point: which is, you’re going to make choices, you’re going to challenge, you’re going to say why not,” Dunn, who was President Barack Obama’s communications director at the time, told an audience of high schoolers.
“The Mao quote is one I picked up from the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater from something I read in the late 1980s, so I hope I don’t get my progressive friends mad at me,” Dunn told CNN after receiving criticism for what she said.
“The use of the phrase ‘favorite political philosophers’ was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat.”