Former US Vice President Joe Biden leveled sharp criticism at President Donald Trump for his response to the racist violence in Charlottesville earlier this month, accusing him of emboldening white supremacists.
In a commentary published Sunday in The Atlantic, Biden urged Americans to stand up against racism and bigotry and fight “for the soul of this nation.”
“Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate,” he wrote.
Trump, Biden said, had “emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.”
“This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America,” the former vice president said. “Hatred of blacks, Jews, immigrants — all who are seen as ‘the other’ — won’t be accepted or tolerated or given safe harbor anywhere in this nation.
Said Biden of Trump: “His contempt for the US Constitution and willingness to divide this nation knows no bounds.”
Trump triggered outrage earlier this month when he suggested both sides were at fault after unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which a woman was killed when a white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter-protesters.
The US president went on to say there were “very fine people” on “both sides” of the protest, which began when torch-bearing young men in neo-Nazi regalia gathered to protect a statue of a Confederate general.
Trump’s response was celebrated in white nationalist circles but drew harsh criticism from around the world and across the US political spectrum, including rebuke from a top United Nations body on racial discrimination.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to repudiate Trump’s response to Charlottesville, indicating the president’s values should be considered separate from America’s when it comes to race.
Tillerson was the second White House official in recent days to appear to more explicitly criticize Trump.
Last week, Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, sharply denounced the president’s response, telling the Financial Times that he wrote a letter of resignation but never submitted it. Some other White House officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have defended Trump.