Former vice president Joe Biden, in an effort to salvage his campaign from allegations of racism, claimed Friday in Chicago that President Donald Trump had called neo-Nazis “very fine people” and that he had never criticized the Ku Klux Klan.
Speaking at the convention of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Biden said:
And look, there’s only one president I know that’s actually deliberately walked away from [the expectation of equality]. And that is Donald Trump.
Not a joke! Think about this. I don’t know about you, Jess, but I never thought that after all the progress we’ve been made, I ‘d see people marching out of fields, carrying torches, contorted faces, anger and hate, accompanied by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, met by decent, honorable people who said, “We don’t hate here.”
What happened? [A] clash ensued, a young woman died. And what did he say? When asked about it, he said, quote — no president’s ever said this — “there are very fine people in both groups” [sic]. He has yet to apologize — or criticize, or criticize the Ku Klux Klan or the white supremacists.”
Look, we have a president who promotes hate and division, has encouraged the poison of white supremacy. Our children are watching. Barack [Obama] was a president our kids not only could, but did, look up to. …
There are several falsehoods in Biden’s statement.
1. The neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Ku Klux Klan members who marched in Charlottesville in August 2017 were met by some “decent, honorable people” — but also by violent, armed members of Antifa. The Washington Post noted: “Counterprotesters had also gathered early. Members of anti-fascist groups yelled at the rallygoers. Many of them also carried sticks and shields.” When the white nationalists charged them, “[c]ounterprotesters fought back, also swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals. Others threw balloons filled with paint or ink at the white nationalists. Everywhere, it seemed violence was exploding. The police did not move to break up the fights.” It is true that some protests — especially involving clergy — were nonviolent, but others were not.
2. A young woman did not simply “die.” Her name was Heather Heyer, and she was murdered by neo-Nazi James Fields, who deliberately drove his car into counter-protesters. (He was sentenced Friday to life in prison.)
3. “Very fine people” hoax. President Trump did not say “there are very fine people in both groups.” He specifically condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He was referring to non-violent protesters on either side of the issue of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a public park, as well as non-violent protesters against the racist groups. But when Trump said, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” he added: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.” Biden has lied about this since his campaign launch.