Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Speaks On His Economic Recovery Plan in Delaware
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Speaks On His Economic Recovery Plan in Delaware

Joe Biden’s embarrassing memory lapse

Joe Biden has labelled Donald Trump the United States' first racist president, seemingly forgetting about much of his own country's history.

Mr Biden, the Democratic Party's candidate to take on Mr Trump in November's presidential election, made the baffling comment during a virtual town hall event today.

According to The Washington Post, the former vice president was responding to a healthcare worker who had expressed concerns about Mr Trump repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus".

"The way (Mr Trump) deals with people based on the colour of their skin, their national origin, where they're from, is absolutely sickening," Mr Biden said.

"No sitting President has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president.

"We've had racists, and they've existed, they've tried to get elected president. He is the first one that has."


Let's put aside the debate over whether or not Mr Trump is, in fact, a racist. That's a whole other tin of biscuits.

Either way, the claim that Mr Trump is America's first racist president is, to borrow one of Mr Biden's favourite phrases, complete malarkey.

There are at least 12 former US presidents who literally owned slaves during their lives. You've undoubtedly heard of some of them.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant were all slave owners.

Eight of those men even continued to keep slaves while they were president.

Mr Biden seems to have suffered a memory lapse on the same scale as that time in Game of Thrones when Daenerys "kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet".

He wasn't even correct when he said no Democratic or Republican presidents had ever been racist - presidents Jackson, Van Buren and Polk were all Democrats, while Grant was a Republican.

The Biden campaign has released a statement addressing the remark, and conceding that there had indeed been racist presidents before Mr Trump.

"There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out - especially in modern history - because he made running racism and division his calling card and won," said senior adviser Symone Sanders.

"He deliberately foments both, intentionally causing indescribable pain because he thinks it advantages him politically."

The last slave owner president was General Grant, who left office in 1877.

Perhaps the most virulently racist candidate in modern times was George Wallace, who ran for president on four occasions, always unsuccessfully, during the 1960s and 70s.

At least three modern presidents - Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman - are known to have used racial slurs, including the n-word.

Mr Trump was asked to respond to Mr Biden during today's coronavirus media briefing at the White House.

The President reeled off a list of his policies that he argued had helped African-Americans.

"You know, it's interesting, because we did criminal justice reform. We passed criminal justice reform, something that Obama and Biden were unable to do," said Mr Trump.

"We did Opportunity Cities. We did the greatest - if you look at what we've done with Opportunity Zones, nobody's ever even thought of a plan like that."

The Trump administration's "Opportunity Zones" program was launched in 2017, with the promise that it would spur investment in poor neighbourhoods.

"Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country and really doing terrible things all over the world, doing terrible things, we had the best African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American - almost every group was the best for unemployment. The unemployment numbers were the best," Mr Trump continued.

"So you look at employment, you look at Opportunity Zones, and maybe most of all you look at criminal justice reform, you look at prison reform.

"I've done things that nobody else - and I've said this, and I say it openly, and not a lot of people dispute it - I've done more for black Americans than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close."

Since we're policing the candidates' knowledge of US history, it would be remiss of me to ignore Mr Trump's assertion that he's done more for African-Americans than anybody with the "possible" exception of Abraham Lincoln.

Mr Lincoln, of course, was the president who led the Union against the pro-slavery Confederacy during the American Civil War.

In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared "all persons held as slaves" within the rebel state "are, and henceforward shall be free".

I'm not sure Mr Trump's unemployment rate quite compares.


Mr Trump has been repeatedly accused of racism for his use of terms like "China virus", "Wuhan virus" and "Kung Flu" to describe the coronavirus in recent months.

At a political rally in Phoenix, Arizona last month, the President doubled down.

"You ever notice - I said the other night, did anybody see my speech the other night, on Saturday night?" Mr Trump asked the crowd.

"I said the other night, there's never been anything with so many names. I could give you 19 or 20 names for that, right? It's got all different names.

"Wuhan. Wuhan was catching on. Coronavirus, right?"

At that point, one very enthusiastic supporter in the crowd shouted "Kung Flu" loudly enough to cut through the general buzz of noise.

"Kung Flu, yeah. Kung Flu. Kung Flu," Mr Trump said.

This is the first time Mr Biden has so directly accused Mr Trump of being a racist.

In the past, he has criticised the President for allegedly saying racist things and having racist policies, but refrained from actually using the label.

Originally published as Joe Biden's embarrassing memory lapse

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