Biden Invokes George Wallace to Disparage Republicans, Despite Having Praised Wallace in the Past

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
January 12, 2022 Updated: January 12, 2022

President Joe Biden’s history of praising segregationist George Wallace is resurfacing after the president invoked the late former Alabama governor in a speech on Tuesday.

In his address from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, Biden promoted two bills in the Senate that would overhaul voting rules in U.S. elections. He also called for bringing an end to the filibuster if it’s needed to pass the bills.

In the speech, Biden attempted to link Republican opposition to the bills to Wallace as well as former Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor and former president of the Confederate States Jefferson Davis.

“So, I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered?” Biden said. “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Following Biden’s address, the House GOP Twitter account posted a 1987 news clipping from the Detroit Free Press in which then Delaware Sen. Joe Biden boasted to voters that former Alabama Gov. George Wallace had praised him as “one of the outstanding young politicians of America.”

“FLASHBACK: Joe Biden once bragged about being praised by George Wallace,” the Twitter post reads.

The Washington Examiner also pointed to a Philadelphia Inquirer Article from 1975 in which Biden is quoted as saying, “I think the Democratic Party could stand a liberal George Wallace—someone who’s not afraid to stand up and offend people, someone who wouldn’t pander but would say what the American people know in their gut is right.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported in 1988 that, while campaigning for the presidency in Alabama, Biden “talked of his sympathy for the South, bragged of an award he had received from George Wallace in 1973, and said ‘We (Delawareans) were on the South’s side in the Civil War.’”

Biden, who served 36 years in the Senate, was also part of the 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee that unanimously voted to have Jefferson Davis’s citizenship restored, according to the Washington Examiner.

Davis had previously served as the U.S. Secretary of War before the South seceded. He was charged with treason, and in 1876, years after the war, Congress refused to restore Davis’s citizenship.

There have also been other instances in which Biden voiced opposition to Wallace.

During his 2020 campaign for president, Biden said his then-rival Donald Trump was “more George Wallace than George Washington.”

And according to Fox News, in 1975, Biden reportedly invoked Wallace to disparage then-Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, grouping him with former President Richard Nixon and Wallace as “men who stand for everything that is wrong in the country.”

In 1976, Biden said he would back then-President Gerald Ford for reelection if he went up against Wallace, who was seeking the Democratic nomination. Biden was reportedly critical of Wallace’s record on policies like crime and education.

A request for comment was sent to the White House for this article.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.