Former Vice Preisdent Joe Biden launched his third presidential campaign on Thursday by referring to a debunked claim that President Donald Trump referred to neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 as “very fine people.”
In a three-and-a-half minute YouTube video, Biden cited the August 2017 riots as his primary motivation for running against Trump, presenting a version of events that even a CNN contributor has declared to be fraudulent.
After referring to the town’s historic role — including Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner — he added, “Charlottesville is also home to a defining moment for this nation in the last few years,” followed by footage of a neo-Nazi procession.
Biden noted that the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “chanting the same antisemitic bile heard in the ’30s.” He then added that they were “met by a courageous group of Americans, and a violent clash ensured.”
(Among that “courageous group of Americans” were left-wing Antifa extremists who specifically came to Charlottesville to cause violence, and whom even Nancy Pelosi later condemned after they caused another riot.)
Biden then cited the debunked “very fine people” claim:
And that’s when we heard the words of the President of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were, quote, some “very fine people on both sides.” Very fine people on both sides? With those words, 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 that the threat to this nation was unlike any I had every seen in my lifetime.
What Biden said is completely untrue, as the transcript of Trump’s press conference about Charlottesville shows.
Trump was referring to protesters against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, as well as to non-violent left-wing protesters against racism, and specifically excluded the neo-Nazis from “very fine people” (emphasis added):
REPORTER: The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group – excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
REPORTER: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.
TRUMP: Oh no, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.
Ironically, Biden has his own record of racism to confront.
CNN recently exposed how Biden courted the support of segregationists in the 1970s in a campaign to resist “busing,” the mandatory radical integration of schools. In 2007, Biden infamously called Barack Obama “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” when commenting on his candidacy (long before being invited to join the ticket).
In 2012, on the campaign trail, he told a largely black audience that Republicans wanted “to put y’all back in chains.” And since then, Biden has joined other Democrats in courting the support of racist and antisemite Al Sharpton.
Biden continued his video by declaring: “If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.” He also said Trump threatened “our very democracy,” an apparent reference to another recently-debunked hoax — namely, the false claim that Trump colluded with Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The former vice president apparently planned to launch his campaign directly in Charlottesville this week, but local leaders objected because “some residents [were] unhappy about the scene a tragedy the city would prefer to forget being used as a campaign launch backdrop,” the Washington Examiner reported. Some also “viewed the move as disrespectful and capitalizing on the death of activist Heather Heyer, 32,” who was murdered by a neo-Nazi there.
It is unclear why Biden chose to run on a divisive racial hoax, even one that remains dogma among many on the left. Biden may feel vulnerable in a Democratic Party now dominated by identity politics. Indeed, the Associated Press reported Thursday that some “women of color” were “frustrated” by his candidacy.
Nevertheless, the fact that Biden is running on an inflammatory, fearful hoax invites questions about who is really trying to divide Americans.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.