Throughout the 2020 presidential election cycle, no attack lines have been hurled as often, or with as much vitriol, as accusations of racism. Biden’s camp points to inflammatory statements made by Trump, where he (Trump) has disparaged immigrants, Mexicans, Africans, African-Americans, and Native Americans, to name a few. Trump’s re-election campaign continues to portray Joe Biden as a lifelong racist and opportunist, citing statements made by Biden over his lifetime of public service that they (Trump’s team) believe illustrate Biden’s true racist nature.
Critics, pundits, talking heads, former staff, House and Senate incumbents, and their constituents all have opinions (often very strong opinions) about the history of racism or accusations of racism by these two men. Many on the left view Donald Trump’s comments and attitudes on race as disqualifying–his policies abhorrent, his heart and soul irredeemably lost. Outspoken critics of Biden on the right match this level of percolating hatred, claiming that Biden is a puppet for communists and a life-long segregationist who wants to destroy the very fabric of American life. So what is the truth of the matter? Which candidate will save America and which will destroy her?
In today’s media ecosystem, where social networks and digital news reinforce persistently-biased points of view, it has become increasingly difficult to find balanced, fact-based perspectives on the historic behavior of candidates, modern elections in general, and their temporal and cultural relevance.
HEADLINE has compiled a timeline below–a chronological illustration of racist statements made by Trump and Biden on record. HEADLINE is not pushing an agenda, does not seek to indoctrinate. We deal in unbiased truth and cold hard facts, come what may.
On the subject of context: Lack of context to intentionally mislead is the very definition of fake news. However, providing context in journalism is one of the main sources of media bias. This HEADLINE Essay and the quotations herein are presented without context to better serve as an informational gateway. But whenever possible, HEADLINE will link to credible news sources that offer a great deal of context–with the occasional bias sprinkled in.
On Biden’s record: While many of Joe Biden’s most inflammatory statements were made early in his career, he would argue now that his tone has changed. Complicating that argument are a number of racist statements he has made on the campaign trail in 2019 and 2020. However, Biden’s campaign and defenders push back against this counterargument, rejecting the racism of his most recent racist comments. The Biden defenders repaint them (the racist comments) as slip-of-the-tongue in nature–not deeply held beliefs.
On Trump’s record: The earliest records (1970-1988) of racist comments made by Trump are difficult to pin down, due to a lack of first-hand, verifiable sources. Good credible sources include newspaper interviews, public hearings, sound bites, etc. All sources cited in this timeline must be first-hand accounts. Further complicating this investigation is Trump’s lack of policy knowledge. Whereas Joe Biden’s remarks are (usually) consistently articulate expressions of his stance on policy issues related to race, Trump’s comments are often off-the-cuff-quips, incoherent and contradictory statements, and derogatory nicknames that provide cover-of-ambiguity while requiring additional levels of inference.
On the definition of racism: Many of the quotations below were made decades ago. Terms that are inflammatory today were commonly used in the past. Societal attitudes toward racial prejudice, racial justice, critical race theory, white privilege, and explicit and implicit bias are constantly shifting. In order efficiently present the information below, the terms “racist” and “racism” will be applied under the broadly accepted modern definition provided by the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Also: behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief : racial discrimination or prejudice.
- November 1970: “I have some friends on the far left, and they can justify to me the murder of a white deaf mute for a nickel by five colored guys. They say the black men had been oppressed and so on. But they can’t justify some Alabama farmers tar and feathering an old colored woman,” Joe Biden to The News Journal.
- September 1975: “I oppose busing. It’s an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me.” Joe Biden in a television interview entered into the Congressional Record.
- September 1975: “I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race. I don’t buy that.” Joe Biden in a television interview entered into the Congressional Record.
“Black kids don’t want to come to your school any more than you want to go to their school.” Joe Biden
- November 1976: “Black kids don’t want to come to your school any more than you want to go to their school.” Joe Biden in a 1976 speech, according to the News Journal.
- September 1977: “Unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point.” Joe Biden during congressional hearing on bussing.
- June 1985: “They brought to your attention the allegation that important legislators in defeating the Nunez plan, in the basement, said, ’“We already have a n—– mayor, we don’t need any more n—– big shots.” Joe Biden repeatedly used the n-word while reading racist remarks made by Reynolds’ staff during congressional hearings.
- June 1988: “Country-wide, we have serious problems,” he said. “So many countries are whipping America, making billions and stripping the United States of economic dignity. I respect the Japanese, but we have to fight back.” Donald Trump at Lehigh University.
- May 1989: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back our Police!” Donald Trump on the Central Park Five.
- September 1989: “A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. And, I think, sometimes a black may think that they don’t really have the advantage or this or that but in actuality today, currently, it’s, uh, it’s a, it’s a great … I’ve said on occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today I would love to be a well-educated black because I really believe they do have an actual advantage today.” Donald Trump on NBC.
- September 1989: “In a nutshell, the president’s plan does not include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, enough prosecutors to convict them, enough judges to sentence them, or enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.” Joe Biden on President George H. W. Bush’s criminal reform speech.
- March 1993: “An opponent without hate, a friend without treachery, a statesman without pretense, a soldier without cruelty and a neighbor without hypocrisy.” Joe Biden quoting Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
- October 1993: “They don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians, and a lot of people are laughing at it, and you are telling how tough it is, how rough it is, to get approved. Well, you go up to Connecticut, and you look. Now, they don’t look like Indians to me, sir.” Donald Trump on Native American casinos in congressional hearing.
- November 1993: “We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created. They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale. And it’s a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society.” Joe Biden on the Senate floor promoting the Crime Bill.
- December 2004: “You’re an unbelievably talented guy in terms of education, and you haven’t done anything. At some point you have to say, ‘That’s enough.” Donald Trump to Kevin Allen, a black contestant on The Apprentice.
- February 2007: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” Joe Biden commenting on then Senator Barack Obama.
- June 2015: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Donald Trump during his campaign announcement for the presidency.
- June 2016: “Let me just tell you, I’ve had horrible rulings, I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall. I am going to do very well with the Hispanics, the Mexicans –.” Donald Trump to Jake Tapper on CNN.
- May 2018: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” Donald Trump at the White House.
- July 2019: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.” Donald Trump on Twitter referring to Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?” Donald Trump
- September 2019: “Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?” Donald Trump to a member of his campaign’s Hispanic Advisory Council.
- May 2020: “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Joe Biden on the Breakfast Club.
- August 2020: “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.” Joe Biden on Cuba speaking with minority journalists.
- 1970s – present: “The Blacks, the Hispanics, Pocahontas, Kungflu, Bad Hombres, China Flu, Thugs, The Blacks, Animals, shithole countries.” List of some of the racist nicknames used by Donald Trump.
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