Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says that while he believes the “vast majority” of Americans are decent, he estimates that about 10 to 15 percent “are just not very good people.”
Biden discussed race relations during an online forum moderated by actor Don Cheadle in the aftermath of the death in police custody of George Floyd, which has sparked mass protests across the country, some of which have turned violent.
“I thought you could defeat hate,” Biden said, adding that he believed “that you could kill hate, but the point is you can’t. Hate only hides. And if you breathe any oxygen into that hate, it comes alive again.”
Biden tied those remarks to what he claimed was a divisive strategy on the part of President Donald Trump, who has expressed sorrow to Floyd’s family over his death and acknowledged the validity of peaceful protests. At the same time, Trump has forcefully denounced destructive forms of unrest, such as vandalism and looting, and accused anarchists and radical leftist groups of hijacking the protests.
“The words a president says matter, so when a president stands up and divides people all the time, you’re gonna the worst of us to come out,” Biden told Cheadle.
“Do we really think this is as good as we can be as a nation? I don’t think the vast majority of people think that. There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out that are just not very good people, but that’s not who we are.
“The vast majority of the people are decent.”
Biden remarks recall past statements by politicians who have spoken disparagingly about segments of American voters who supported opposing views or political camps.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at a campaign event during the 2016 presidential election that around “half” of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also made controversial comments at a 2012 private fundraiser, which were later leaked and reported on by The New York Times, that “47 percent” of voters would never back him because of their dependency on government handouts.
Biden didn’t characterize with any more detail the Americans that he deemed “not very good people.”
The former vice president was criticized for the comment, with former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders calling Biden’s comments “divisive” and “appalling” on Fox News on June 4.
“This kind of belittling and arrogant talk is similar to when Hillary called President Trump’s supporters deplorable,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) wrote in a tweet, adding, “I believe everyone has worth and is redeemable under God.”
Biden said in the online event with Cheadle that, if elected, he would focus on the “decent” majority, saying: “We have to appeal to that and we have to unite people, bring them together.
“This is the United States of America. There’s never been anything we’ve been unable to do when we set our mind to do it, and we’ve done it together.
“I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain.”
Biden formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on June 5, setting up what is expected to be a bruising general election campaign.