Speed Reads

New Hampshire debate

Here's what Tom Steyer was attacking Joe Biden over during Friday night's debate

Things got heated on Friday night when hedge fund manager Tom Steyer challenged former Vice President Joe Biden to disavow one of his campaign surrogates over what black lawmakers in South Carolina have described as a racist attack.

On Wednesday, State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a "longtime friend" of Biden's, tweeted his suspicions about South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Jerry Govan receiving "almost $50,000 for a [month's] worth of work" for Steyer, WIS News 10 reports. "Is he pocketing the dough or redistributing the wealth?" Harpootlian asked in his tweet. The senator also told The Post and Courier that Govan "told me he was with Joe Biden until Mr. Moneybags showed up ... This is what happens when billionaires get involved ... They don't have to persuade anybody, they just buy them."

Govan is a senior adviser to the Steyer campaign in South Carolina, and received pay "consistent with the salaries of other members of the team in South Carolina," Steyer's team has said. Govan also defended himself to The Post and Courier: "I have a consulting firm," he said. "I do business. In terms of having a consulting firm, there's nothing illegal or illicit or improper."

Harpootlian's insinuation that Govan was being bought by Steyer infuriated the Legislative Black Caucus in South Carolina though; about half of the 45-member body demanded Biden distance himself from Harpootlian after the comment, AP reports.

Biden refused to firmly disavow Harpootlian after Steyer's challenge on the debate stage. The former vice president said he'd spoken to Harpootlian and "he was, I believe, sorry for what he said."