Ignoring a cadre of former leaders who owned slaves, embraced the Ku Klux Klan and openly used the n-word, presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden claimed Wednesday that President Donald Trump was the country’s “first” racist president.
Biden’s comments came during a virtual town hall organized by the Service Employees International Union.
When a questioner complained of racism surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and mentioned the president referring to it as the “China virus,” Biden responded by blasting Trump and “his spread of racism.”
“The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” the former vice president said.
“No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed. They’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”
While ironically engaging in his own desperate race-baiting, Biden also suggested that Trump is using race “as a wedge” to distract from his mishandling of the pandemic.
The former vice president has long played defensive on his own history of making offensive and racist comments. In May he told a black podcast host that anybody who declined to support his candidacy “ain’t black.”
And recent archival transcripts of a 1985 hearing revealed Biden repeatedly using the n-word on the floor of the US Senate.
The bizarre accusation from the blunder-prone Biden not only called attention to worries over his own cognitive decline, but also raised the obvious matter of Democrats’ troubled historical legacy when it comes to race issues.
Biden has fondly recalled cooperating with pro-segregation Southern Democrats early in his career and has been hammered for his own past positions that were harmful to minority communities.
He also offered a eulogy at the funeral of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., a former grand-wizard in the KKK.
While many of the earliest US presidents—including the nation’s first, George Washington—owned slaves, they arguably were not the most overly racist chief executives.
President Woodrow Wilson, the country’s 28th president, is having his name removed from Princeton University’s public policy school after recent protests against institutional racism and police brutality.
Wilson—who is considered in many regards to have ushered in the modern progressivist movement with policies like his UN precursor, the League of Nations—supported segregation and imposed it on several federal agencies.
Lyndon Johnson, a Texas Democrat who served as John F. Kennedy’s vice president before becoming president himself, worked with Republicans in Congress to pass meaningful civil rights reforms. But he also was not shy about casually using the n-word at a time when it would have been frowned upon.
At a White House briefing later Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about Biden’s comments by pointing to his administration’s efforts passing criminal justice reform legislation and expanding opportunity zones, as well as the low unemployment numbers for minority groups before the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’ve done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible of exception of Abraham Lincoln,” the president said. “Nobody has even been close.”
Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser for Trump’s reelection campaign, said in a statement that ”no one should take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press