Joe Biden appeared to announce he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination – only to quickly correct himself.
The former US vice-president was giving a speech at a dinner in Delaware when he claimed he has “the most progressive record of anybody running”.
But so far the 76-year-old has not officially said if he is running in 2020, after two previous failed bids in 1988 and 2008.
And after the slip of the tongue, he soon clarified his remark, saying “anybody who would run, I didn’t mean it. Anybody who would run”, as he was cheered by the crowd.
Although Mr Biden, who was vice president to Barack Obama, has been known to go off script, his remark is likely to be viewed as a case of accidentally telling the truth.
More than a dozen Democrats have already launched formal presidential campaigns, including rising star Beto O’Rourke last week.
Mr Biden, who is his party’s best-known presidential prospect, is the last major contender to remain on the sidelines.
During the rest of his speech, the politician, who represented Delaware in the US Senate from 1973 to 2009, sounded like a candidate-in-waiting.
He launched repeated attacks on President Donald Trump, accusing him of stoking division and anger.
And Mr Biden also hit out at the “new left” in his own party after they criticised him for being cordial towards Republicans.
He said: “The only thing strong enough to tear America apart is America itself and we’ve seen its start.”
Mr Biden accused Mr Trump of backing away from America’s role as a leader on the world stage and abandoning its allies.
He said it was no coincidence that “fake news” – one of Trump’s favourite lines – “has become the phrase of choice for every despot terrorising his people”.
“We’re literally in a battle for the soul of America,” he said.
Delaware Governor John Carney said Mr Biden “doesn’t just look like he’s back. He looks like he’s ready for a fight”.
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