“He’s a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with Dana Bash of CNN, his first in-person interview since the coronavirus crisis took him off the campaign trail. Castigating Mr. Trump for “this macho stuff,” Mr. Biden accused him of “stoking deaths” and aggravating cultural divisions over mask-wearing.
The interview, conducted outside Mr. Biden’s home in Wilmington, Del., and with Mr. Biden and Ms. Bash seated 12 feet apart, occurred a day after he appeared in public for the first time in more than two months, visiting a veterans memorial in Delaware. He and his wife, Jill Biden, both wore black masks as they laid a wreath, cutting a stark visual contrast with Mr. Trump, who has largely declined to wear a mask in public despite federal health recommendations.
Mr. Biden’s rebuke of Mr. Trump was yet another sign that he views the president’s refusal to wear a mask as a vulnerability that makes him appear reckless, while Mr. Biden presents himself as a sober-minded leader. Appearing to put an even finer point on his argument, Mr. Biden on Tuesday evening changed his Twitter avatar to an image of him wearing a mask.
Asked during the interview whether wearing a mask projected strength or weakness, Mr. Biden responded “leadership.”
“Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine,” he said. “It reminds me of the guys that I grew up with playing ball. They’d walk around with a ball in their hand, but they didn’t like to hit very much.”
Mr. Biden also addressed his remarks last week in which he suggested that black voters “ain’t black” if they were considering voting for Mr. Trump. “I have never taken the African-American community for granted, never, never, never once,” he said, adding that his words were “a mistake.”
Asked if there was a lesson in how he should compete with Mr. Trump, who is known for making insulting comments that he does not apologize for, Mr. Biden again tried to draw a contrast.
“I’m never going to stoop to where he is,’’ Mr. Biden said. “I’m not going to do what he does. He says so many outrageous things.”
Mr. Biden said he hoped to return to the campaign trail but cautioned that the coronavirus crisis was “not over.”