CLEVELAND (AFP) - Joe Biden offered a snappy retort on Tuesday (Sept 29) to accusations by US President Donald Trump's campaign that he would use an electronic earpiece to gain advantage during their hotly anticipated presidential debate.
The two sides exchanged bitter barbs just hours ahead of the showdown in Cleveland, with the Republican theory that Biden would use the device to get coached during the debate gaining traction on social media despite no actual evidence.
The Trump team claimed the Biden campaign had reneged on an agreement to conduct a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces and had asked for multiple breaks during their faceoff.
Team Biden rejected the claims.
As the two sides lobbed accusations, Biden, 77, weighed in on Twitter.
"It's debate night, so I've got my earpiece and performance enhancers ready," he quipped alongside a photograph showing Apple ear buds and a tub of ice cream.
Within an hour, Biden's shade-throwing post gained 200,000 likes.
"I bet you do, Sleepy!" White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded, employing Trump's oft-used nickname for Biden, "Sleepy Joe."
Earlier in the day, Biden's aides pushed back fiercely on the notion that Biden would find a way to get surreptitious help during the showdown, or that he wanted breaks during the event.
"Of course he's not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks," The Washington Post quoted Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield as saying in a conference call.
Bedingfield fired back with a jab of her own.
"If we're playing that game, then you know, the Trump team asked (moderator) Chris Wallace not to mention the number of deaths from Covid once during the debate," she said.
"You can consider that confirmed from the Biden campaign," Bedingfield said. "See how easy that was to try to throw up a distraction?"
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh denied any such request had been made to the Fox News host, who will moderate the debate on Tuesday night at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio.
"This is a lie and it never happened," Murtaugh said in a statement. "This is the height of playing politics with a public health crisis.
"Biden is trying to distract from the facts that he won't submit to an inspection for earpieces, won't take a drug test, and needs multiple breaks during the 90-minute debate."
For months Trump has painted Biden as senile, recently suggesting he takes performance enhancing drugs and demanding he be tested - a demand Biden has laughed off.