Biden says Trump is first racist U.S. president

Allan Smith, Marianna Sotomayor
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery during a campaign event at Colonial Early Education Program at the Colwyck Center on July 21, 2020 in New Castle, Delaware.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday called President Donald Trump the first racist president in U.S. history.

Speaking at a virtual town hall organized by the Service Employees International Union, Biden offered the assessment of the president after Suk Kim, a South Korean immigrant, detailed an experience she had being racially profiled at a supermarket and expressed concern over Trump's coronavirus rhetoric, including referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus."

The presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee said he was "so angry" after learning of her experience before criticizing Trump for "his spreading of racism."

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"The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they're from, is absolutely sickening," Biden said. "No sitting president has ever done this, never, never, never."

"No Republican president has done this, this no Democratic president," he continued. "We've had racists and they've existed, they've tried to get elected president but he's the first one that has. And the way he pits people against one another is all designed to divide the country, divide people, not pull them together.

Asked about the remarks during a press conference Wednesday, Trump cited the passage of the The First Step Act and a lower unemployment rate among Black and Hispanic Americans during his term "prior to the China plague coming in."

"I've done more for black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln," Trump said. "No one else has even been close."

Trump has been accused of fomenting anti-Asian sentiment by referring to the novel coronavirus as the "China virus," "Kung Flu," and "China pandemic."

It's worth noting that several of the nation's past presidents either held slaves or otherwise expressed racist views. The White House itself was constructed with slave labor.

The Biden campaign in a statement later acknowledged past racist presidents but said Trump stands out among them.

"There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out — especially in modern history — because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won," Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders said. "He deliberately foments both, intentionally causing indescribable pain because he thinks it advantages him politically."

Trump has previously claimed Biden called him "racist" and "xenophobic" for restricting travel from China earlier this year. Biden has labeled Trump's handling of the pandemic as xenophobic, though did not tie that claim specifically to the travel restrictions.

Biden's comments Wednesday appeared to be the first time the former vice president has directly called Trump a racist. The former vice president has previously accused Trump of having "fanned the flames of white supremacy" and compared the president to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who ran for president on a segregationist platform.

Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign senior adviser, said in a statement that Trump "loves all people, works hard to empower all Americans, and is supported by more Black voters than any Republican presidential candidate in modern history."

"No one should take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden," she added.