Democrat presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds of black church leaders that President Donald Trump is fanning the flames of hatred in the United States.
The 77-year-old, who served as vice president for the nation's first black president Barack Obama, gave a keynote address at the National Baptist Convention’s winter meetings in Arlington, Texas, on Thursday.
NBC is the largest predominantly black Christian denomination in the U.S.
While Biden did not mention anything about Trump’s impeachment trial, he did accuse Trump of emboldening hate groups in the U.S.
“If I have learned anything during a time of Donald Trump being president is this: hate never goes away. It just hides,” Biden said. “When leaders give it oxygen as Trump has done, it comes roaring back.”
Since his election in 2016, Trump has been accused by the political left of emboldening white nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S.
Biden said that white supremacists used to “operate in the shadows.” But now, he contends, they “feel emboldened to spread their hatred openly.”
“David Duke [former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan] said, ‘That’s why we voted for Donald Trump,’” Biden said. “‘Because he said he was going to take our country back.’”
Biden claimed that with Trump as president, the country’s “core values,” “standing in the world” and “democracy” are “at risk.”
“That’s why we have to restore the soul of the nation,” Biden said. “That’s why I am here with you.”
Biden assured, however, that “sometimes progress runs fastest when we’re at our lowest point.”
“Sometimes it’s those who fan the flames of hate that end up drawing forth the next great wave of progress,” Biden said.
Biden said he believes that “we’re in one of those moments” as he hears “the voices of intolerance singing the chorus of hate, exclusion, and denial.”
“From the bottom of my heart, I believe we’re in one of those moments with president Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Biden vowed to work to unite the nation if he were elected president.
“With Donald Trump’s poisonous and divisive politics, we now have a tremendous opportunity because Americans have been awakened to how bad things are,” Biden said.
Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Cotten slammed Biden in a statement shared with KTVT CBS 11.
“Whether its touting extreme policies like destroying the oil and gas industry, which employs millions of hardworking Texans, or his misguided criminal justice agenda, it’s clear Joe Biden is out-of-touch with Texas,” Cotten said. “Meanwhile, President Trump is delivering on his promises by passing landmark criminal justice reforms and securing record low unemployment rates that benefit the African American community.”
A Real Clear Politics average of national polling shows Biden as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary election as of Friday. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are second and third, respectively.
Last year, Biden was criticized by former 2020 Democrat hopeful California Sen. Kamala Harris during a televised debate over his own record on racial issues and past relationships with segregationist senators.
Harris accused Biden of opposing desegregation busing in public schools. However, Biden disputed that claim.
“What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education,” Biden said in return. “I have supported the [Equal Rights Amendment] from the beginning.”
“I’m the guy that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years,” Biden continued. “[W]e got to the place where we got 98 out of 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I’ve also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box.”
This is not the first time Biden has accused a Republican opponent of racism. In 2012, Biden told a group of African American supporters in Danville, Virginia, that presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney would "put you all back in chains."