By declining to charge President Biden but gratuitously impugning the president’s cognitive abilities, special counsel Robert Hur overstepped his bounds and fed into a blatantly ageist narrative. Hur pulled a “James Comey” yesterday in announcing that the president would not be charged with a crime but criticizing Biden’s handling of classified documents, just as Comey did with Hillary Clinton in 2016. (And we know how that turned out.) But, unlike Comey, Hur also felt the need to disparage the President’s age and his memory, referring to Biden as "a well-meaning, elderly man."
Upon kicking off her presidential campaign this week, Nikki Haley said politicians 75 years of age or older should be subject to mental competency tests. It was a cheap political shot at President Biden and her rival in the primaries, Donald Trump. But it was more than that. Haley’s statement is blatantly ageist. Of course, of all the -isms (racism, sexism, able-ism, classism, etc.), the targeting of older people remains one of the most socially acceptable – probably leading Haley to believe that her jab at senior politicians was safe. That doesn’t make it any less offensive.
Despite their enormous contributions to our country, seniors are continually devalued as members of society. When someone calls another person “old,” it’s understood as an insult, not a sign of respect. “In our society, older people too often are considered to be absent and invisible,” says our senior policy expert, Anne Montgomery.