By Tom Ozimek
Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden said Thursday that while he believes the “vast majority” of Americans are decent, he estimated that there around 10 to 15 percent “that are just not very good people.”
Biden made the remarks during an online forum moderated by the actor Don Cheadle. The two discussed race relations in the aftermath of the police custody death 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, like vandalism and looting, and accused groups of anarchists and radical leftists 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,” Biden continued. “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 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 did not characterize with any more detail the 10-15 percent category of Americans that he deemed “not very good people.”
The former Vice President faced criticism for the label, with former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders calling Biden’s comments “divisive” and “appalling” on Fox News on Thursday night.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), said in a tweet that “this kind of belittling and arrogant talk is similar to when Hillary called President Trump’s supporters deplorable,” adding, “I believe everyone has worth and is redeemable under God.”
The 2020 White House hopeful 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,” he said.
“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 added.
Biden on Friday formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, setting him up for a bruising challenge to Trump.
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