Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday snapped at a reporter from a right-wing outlet who said he misquoted President Trump's statement on white supremacists who clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
Trump’s infamous response — that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville episode — drew widespread outrage among Democrats, Republicans and even members of his administration.
Speaking to reporters at the Iowa State Fair, Biden was accused by Joel Pollak, host of “Breitbart News Tonight” on Sirius XM radio, of misquoting Trump.
Pollak suggested Trump condemned the neo-Nazis who organized the rally.
“He did not,” Biden said. “Let’s get this straight. He said there were very fine people in both groups. They were chanting anti-Semitic slogans, carrying flags.”
Biden then walked away.
In the wake of the Charlottesville altercation, there has been an effort among Trump supporters in right-wing media to claim that the president didn’t actually call neo-Nazis and white nationalists “very fine people.” Trump, they claim, was talking about those who supported preserving the statue of Robert E. Lee and not the white nationalists who organized the rally. But there is little evidence the former group attended the infamous Friday night tiki-torch march.
Trump attempted to make that case himself earlier this year when his response to Charlottesville was criticized by Biden during the former vice president’s campaign launch.
In Iowa, Biden was asked by a different reporter if he believes Trump is a white supremacist, something Democratic rivals Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke have said in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, last week. The gunman in that massacre posted a so-called manifesto that echoed Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric.
“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump told reporters in April. “Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals. I have spoken to many generals here, right at the White House, and many people thought — of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite general.”
Biden said Thursday that Trump’s words about Charlottesville had a racial subtext.
“I believe everything the president has done encourages white supremacists,” Biden said. “I don’t know there’s much of a distinction. And as a matter of fact, it might be worse.”
On Wednesday, Biden tore into Trump’s response to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, saying the president “has fanned the flames of white supremacy.”
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