Former Vice President Joe Biden argued the comments made by President Trump are encouraging violence amid a wave of protests interspersed with rioting across the country sparked by the death of a black man in Minnesota who died after a white police officer put his knee on the man’s neck for 8 minutes.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee also vowed that if he wins the White House, he’ll “significantly increase economic opportunity that’s across the board” to fight at the roots of the problems contributing to racial injustice in the nation.
And speaking with community leaders on Monday at his first in-person campaign event since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country more than two months ago, Biden spotlighted that as he chooses a running mate, “there are multiple African American candidates being considered.”
The president has been targeted by critics and some in the media for not formally addressing the nation in order to quell the unrest – and for tweets that many feel are incendiary. Biden, speaking with a small group that was spread out across the sanctuary of the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del., emphasized that “it matters what a president says.”
And without mentioning Trump’s name, Biden accused the president of being “somebody in power who breathes oxygen into hate under the rocks.”
“It legitimized things,” the former vice president stressed. And he added that “you hear now” things that wouldn’t have been said in public 10 years ago. “It’s encouraged people to bring out the vitriol.”
Biden vowed that if elected, “we’re going to make sure that the economic recovery deals with institutional structure, institutional racism, that need to be fixed.”
He said that he’d “significantly increase economic opportunity that’s across the board in a way that hasn’t existed.”
And to combat racial injustice at the hands of some in law enforcement, the former vice president vowed “to fundamentally change the way in which police are trained.”
Biden noted that next week he’ll be releasing new proposals on housing and economic opportunities and re-emphasized that he’ll deliver major policy addresses in the weeks to come.
Biden – who in March announced that he’d name a female running mate – has been urged by many Democrats in the week since Floyd’s death to name a black woman as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
“I promise you there are multiple African American candidates being considered,” the former vice president emphasized.
Biden’s meeting with community leaders comes nine days after he apologized during a conference call with black business leaders for controversial comments he made hours earlier on the popular morning radio program “The Breakfast Club.” Biden had told host Charlamagne tha God that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
The former vice president emphasized that “I don’t expect anything from the black community. I’ve never taken for granted, never one single moment.. it has to be earned, earned every single time.”
Biden – who served for eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama — has long enjoyed strong support in the African-American community. And the community’s votes were crucial to his capturing of the Democratic nomination.
Before Biden spoke for roughly 30 minutes, he listened and took notes at the community leaders made comments.
“The vice president came to hear from us. This is a homeboy,” Pastor Sylvester Beaman said at the start of the gathering.
Biden later asked for their input, saying “I need help and advice as we go on as to what I should and shouldn’t be doing.”
Biden wore a mask at the church – but lowered it below his nose and mouth when he spoke. The event was the third time in a week he’s left his house to make a short trip after spending the last two months working entirely from his house — as most Americans huddled in their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A week ago, he took part in a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony, and on Sunday he visited the site of a Saturday night protest in Wilmington spurred by Floyd’s death.
Biden on Sunday also released a statement calling the protests against Floyd’s death “utterly American” but condemning “needless destruction” and violence.
“The criticism I’m going to get now is why I’m spending so much time in Wilmington, Delaware. Why I am not in Philly right now. Why I am I not out in Minnesota. Why am I not in Atlanta,” Biden told those assembled.
Biden has repeatedly said his campaign would follow the governor of Delaware’s stay-at-home order, which expired on Monday.
Biden is scheduled to take part Monday afternoon in a virtual roundtable with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Melvin Carter.
Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera and Allie Raffa contributed to this report.