Former vice president Joe Biden estimated Thursday that about “10 to 15 percent of the people out there” are “just not very good people” and accused President Trump of dividing the nation, adding that as president he would bring Americans together.
“The words a president says matter, so when a president stands up and divides people all the time, you’re going to get the worst of us to come out,” Biden said during a Young Americans discussion with a group of black supporters that was moderated by actor Don 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,” the presumptive Democratic nominee continued. “There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people, but that’s not who we are. The vast majority of the people are decent, and we have to appeal to that and we have to unite people — bring them together.”
The former vice president’s remarks evoked memories of Hillary Clinton’s claim during the 2016 campaign season that half of Trump supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables,” a comment that provoked outrage from Trump, his supporters, and other Republicans. In 2012, leaked video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney showed him saying that 47 percent of voters would not vote for him because they are “dependent upon government.”
Biden’s comments come as the nation is rocked by protests and riots in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after white Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes. Both peaceful protests and riots have broken out in Minneapolis and cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, and Dallas.
Biden emphasized that people should not “allow the protesting to overshadow the purpose of the protest,” adding that, “there’s going to be a lot of folks that are going to want to cause trouble. Some cops, but some folks too.”
On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr said that since Saturday in Washington, D.C. alone, 114 law enforcement personnel had been injured during riots, including 22 hospitalizations, mostly for serious head injuries. On Monday, however, a largely peaceful protest was broken up by law enforcement minutes before Trump walked over to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which protesters had set fire to the previous night.
“Hate didn’t begin with Donald Trump, it’s not going to end with him,” Biden said during Thursday’s discussion.
“I thought we had made enormous progress when we elected an African-American president, I thought things had really changed,” Biden said. “I thought you could defeat hate, 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.”