Biden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people'

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMcAuliffe holds slim lead over Youngkin in Fox News poll Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE on Thursday said that 10 to 15 percent of "people out there" are just "not very good people.”

Speaking during a virtual town hall with young Americans, Biden discussed the importance of a president setting an example for the country on issues of race during a conversation moderated by actor Don Cheadle.

Biden accused President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump MORE of dividing the nation, saying “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.” 

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“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 former vice president added. “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. Bring them together.” 

Biden’s comments were reminiscent of some other controversial comments made by former presidential nominees.

In 2012, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema MORE (R-Utah) said during a private fundraising event that “47 percent” of voters would support former President Obama and "are dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims.” In 2016, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Bill Clinton hospitalized with sepsis We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE said that half of Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.”

Both candidates faced widespread backlash over the messages, which became fodder for a number of campaign attack ads. 

During the Thursday town hall event, which focused on race and racism in the U.S. in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, several young black people asked Biden questions. 

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“George Floyd’s last words spoke to a nation where the color of your skin dictates the safety in your future. It’s long past time that these words have to be acted upon,” Biden said.

“Let me make something clear: I am a white man. I think I understand, but I can’t feel it. I mean I feel it, but I don’t know what it’s like, to be a black man walking down the street and be accosted, to be a black man walking down the street and be arrested, be a black man walking down the street and god forbid something worse happen to me,” he continued.

Biden told supporters that his election would not erase systemic racism in the U.S., saying that “Hate didn’t begin with Donald Trump, it’s not going to end with him.”

“The history of our country is not a fairy tale, it doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, but as I said earlier, we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation. It’s been a constant push and pull for the last 200 years,” Biden said during the 70-minute conversation. 

Biden added that he thought “we had made enormous progress when we elected an African American president, I thought things had really changed."

“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," Biden said. 

The former vice president also called for peaceful protests and demonstrations during the town hall event. Protests have broken out throughout the U.S. over Floyd's death last week. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer, who has since been fired, was seen kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.