Former Vice President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign Thursday with a video that mischaracterizes comments made by President Donald Trump.
Central to Biden’s video was the theme of fighting against a culture of white supremacy — and the lie that Trump had called white supremacists “very fine people” following the violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago.
What Biden omitted was the full context of Trump’s remarks. RealClearPolitics noted what the president actually said during the press conference at Trump Tower:
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 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.
The president was fairly clear in noting that the “fine people” he referenced were those who were simply there to protest the removal of a statue and the renaming of a park. Even so, he offered more clarity later in the press conference, saying, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and white nationalists because they should be condemned totally.”
Biden released the video early Thursday along with the caption, “The core values of this nation … our standing in the world … our very democracy … everything that has made America — America — is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.” (RELATED: Joe Biden Launches 2020 Presidential Campaign)
The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy…everything that has made America — America –is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019
Biden began the video by reading from the Declaration of Independence, and after a subtle dig at its author, Thomas Jefferson, he pivoted to the competing rallies held in Charlottesville.
Biden spoke of the ugliness of white supremacy, referencing the white nationalist Unite the Right rally and the counterprotest, and noted the bravery of the counterprotester, Heather Heyer, who was killed in the ensuing clash.
And then he turned his attention to the president’s response, taking a Trump quote out of context and saying, “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?” Biden continued. “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.”
Also omitted from Biden’s video was the fact that white supremacists and counterprotesters were not the only two groups of people represented in Charlottesville that day.
There were some who did not embrace white nationalism/white supremacy but felt that tearing down confederate statues amounted to erasing important parts of American history. The Virginia Sons of Confederate Veterans, a charitable organization open to male descendants of Confederate soldiers, had already sued the city to prevent the removal of the statue in question but spoke out in condemnation of white supremacists.
And there were, among the counterprotesters, Antifa activists who had no qualms about inciting violence to make a political point.