Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called President Trump the country’s first racist president during a virtual town hall Wednesday.
“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 at the virtual event organized by the Service Employees International Union when a healthcare worker brought up Trump’s habit of blaming Asians for the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has regularly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” the “Wuhan virus” and the “Kung Flu.”
“No sitting president has ever done this,” Biden said. “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.”
Last year, when asked by the Washington Post if it was wrong to describe Trump as “a racist with a white supremacist policy agenda,” Biden said no, but did not want to go so far as to label Trump a racist, saying instead that the president was promoting “racist policies.”
The former vice president told reporters last week that he believes we are in a “battle for the soul of the country” as Americans have “had their blinders taken off” by the death of George Floyd.
“I do think we’ve reached the point where one of those trite phrases everybody uses . . . it’s a real inflection point in American history and I don’t believe it’s unlike what [President Franklin] Roosevelt [faced],” he said.
“I think we have an enormous opportunity to make some really systemic changes related to racism but institutional ways in which we handle things and I think the country is really ready.”
Biden’s own record on race relations has come into question since the launch of his presidential campaign, as many progressives criticize his opposition in the 1970s of busing meant to desegregate schools.