I understand where Joe Biden was coming from on this story, but he bungled his messaging. In a town hall event last night, Biden was talking about racism and the coronavirus, and simply trying to reference Donald Trump’s blatantly racist statements about “the China Virus” and “kung flu.” There have been actual consequences to Trump’s racism specific to the coronavirus – an increase in hate crimes and verbal abuse towards Asian-Americans over the past four months. But, as I said, Biden bungled it a bit:
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) referred to President Trump as the first “racist” president during a town hall event on Wednesday. Biden was questioned during the event, which was organized by the Service Employees International Union, about Trump’s tendency to refer to COVID-19 as the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus.”
“What President Trump has done in his spreading 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,” Biden 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.”
Biden went on during the town hall to accuse the president of attempting to “divide” the U.S. among racial lines.
“The way he pits people against one another is all designed to divide the country, divide people, not pull them together,” Biden said. “Look what he’s doing now. He’s blaming everything on China. He’s blaming everything on the Chinese. And people don’t make a distinction, as you well know, [between] a South Korean and someone from Beijing. They make no distinction. It’s Asia. And he’s using it as a wedge.”
“No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never.” I mean… I know what he was trying to say, but… we’ve absolutely had racist AF presidents before. In the 20th century, we had MANY racist AF presidents. In the 19th century, we had MANY racist AF presidents. Biden was trying to delineate between someone – like Trump – being blatantly racist versus the dog-whistle racism we usually see in modern politics, where Ronald Reagan talks about “welfare queens” or Nixon talks about the “Silent Majority” or Karl Rove spearheading a whisper campaign claiming John McCain has a black child. I hope Joe Biden understands that he can completely talk about Donald Trump as an ahistorical fascist, racist demagogue without making it about how “Trump is the first racist to ever sit in the Oval Office!”
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.