As expected, the presidential debate failed to address food and farming. But might we interest you in a tiny ice cream controversy?

Joe Biden responded to a conspiracy theory with an ice cream tweet. It all went downhill from there.

It started with a conspiracy theory. Ahead of Tuesday’s presidential debate, the Trump campaign fanned the flames of a viral social media rumor claiming that Vice President Joe Biden would wear an earpiece during the event. The Biden campaign initially agreed to a pre-debate ear inspection, then backed out. Such are politics in 2020. 

Pictured above, Joe Biden, left, buys a double scoop ice cream cone from Jeni’s Ice Cream owner Jeni Britton Bauer at North Market in downtown Columbus, Ohio during the 2012 presidential campaign trail.

Anyway, the @JoeBiden official Twitter account made light of the kerfuffle an hour and a half before the debate, sharing a photo of a pair of earbuds and a pint of Jeni’s ice cream (salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks, for those of you taking notes) and quipping that “It’s debate night, so I’ve got my earpiece and performance enhancers ready.” 

Get it? The performance enhancer is ice cream! (This is a very on-brand dad joke for Vice President Biden, noted cone enthusiast.) GOP Rapid Response Director Steve Guest was quick to respond, quote-tweeting the joke and calling Biden an “out of touch elitist,” adding that the ice cream costs $13 a pint. (On the company’s website, it’s $12.) Democrats jumped in to point out that Jeni’s is in Ohio—a swing state—and that it’s a small business, a plus for virtue-signalers the world over. 

After that, the discourse took a bit of a nosedive: Many commenters jumped in just to say they liked Jeni’s. One person said Biden should not be eating Jeni’s at his age because of the company’s history of “listeria breakouts.” (The company issued two listeria recalls related to the same problem in 2015, but was subsequently very public about the crisis.) Elsewhere, a conspiracy theorist linked Jeni’s to Les Wexner, the disgraced former patron of the deceased financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and that’s when we stopped scrolling. 

Conspiracy theories aside, Biden’s appreciation for both Jeni’s Ice Cream and Jeni herself (her full name is Jeni Britton Bauer) is by now well-documented. In late September, the former Vice President announced an advisory council on small businesses that includes former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, founders of Kind Snacks and Ben & Jerry’s, and—you guessed it—Jeni. 

Democrats jumped in to point out that Jeni’s is in Ohio—a swing state—and that it’s a small business, a plus for virtue-signalers the world over.

And, as Eater pointed out back in April, the Biden campaign had spent more than $10,000 at Jeni’s, disclosing the purchases as “donor gifts” in Federal Trade Commission filings. Since April, the campaign appears to have purchased donor gifts from Jeni’s at least nine more times, with receipts ranging from $71 to $129. Few other expenses have been flagged as “donor gifts,” suggesting that Vice President Biden feels some brand loyalty. (Alternatively, perhaps the campaign just hit on one decent gift and decided to repeat it over and over again—been there.) The Trump campaign has not reported any receipts tied to Jeni’s. 

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The Counter asked the Biden campaign who received the Jeni’s gifts and how the campaign decides who to send them to. We did not receive a response by press time. 

H. Claire Brown is a senior staff writer for The Counter. Her work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Guardian, and The Intercept and has won awards from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, the New York Press Club, the Newswomen's Club of New York, and others. A North Carolina native, she now lives in Brooklyn.