Biden launches campaign by attacking Trump's reaction to Charlottesville

"It was there, in August 2017, we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open, their crazed faces illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and bearing the fangs of racism."

April 27, 2019 23:07
2 minute read.
White Nationalists

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. (photo credit: ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ/NEWS2SHARE VIA REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – Former US vice president Joe Biden ended long months of speculations and rumors on Thursday when he announced his candidacy in the 2020 Democratic primaries. He decided to open his first campaign ad in a direct criticism on the way President Donald Trump handled the antisemitic protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. “Charlottesville” was the first word in his campaign ad.

“Charlottesville is also home to a defining moment for this nation in the last few years,” Biden added after describing the history behind the town. He described the events of that weekend and said, “It was there on August of 2017, we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open, their crazed faces illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and bearing the fangs of racism. Chanting the same antisemitic bile heard across Europe in the ‘30s. And they were met by a courageous group of Americans, and a violent clash ensued, and a brave young woman lost her life.”

According to the ADL, the “Unite the Right” rally was the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade. Hundreds of far-right activists had arrived in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Protesters could be seen that night marching with torches and chanting around the Charlottesville campus of the University of Virginia “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil.”

The rally ended after a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19.

Biden attacked Trump directly on his response to the violent protest.

“We heard the words from the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation,” he said. “He said there were ‘some very fine people on both sides.’ Very fine people on both sides?”

“With those words,” Biden continued, “the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”

A reporter asked Trump on Friday if he still believes that “there were very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, and the president insisted that there was no problem with his answer.

“If you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly,” Trump said. “I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument of Robert E. Lee, a great general. People were there protesting the taking-down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.”

In a tweet on Thursday, Trump addressed Biden’s decision to run.

“Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe,” he wrote on Twitter. “I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty – you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate.”

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