Biden calls Trump the first racist US president

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he is 'seriously' considering a capital gains tax cut Why Joe Biden is in trouble Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE (D) referred to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE as the first "racist" president during a town hall event on Wednesday.

Biden was questioned during the event, which was organized by the Service Employees International Union, about Trump's tendency to refer to COVID-19 as the "China virus" or "Wuhan virus."

"What President Trump has done in his spreading of racism ... the way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening," Biden said.

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"No sitting president has ever done this," Biden said. "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’s the first one that has."

A request for further comment from the Biden campaign was not immediately returned. White House officials have repeatedly denied that Trump's various nicknames for the virus, including "kung flu," are meant to spread racial animus and have insisted instead that the president is merely trying to point to China's failures to contain the virus within its borders.

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Biden went on during the town hall to accuse the president of attempting to "divide" the U.S. among racial lines.

"The way he pits people against one another is all designed to divide the country, divide people, not pull them together," Biden said. "Look what he’s doing now. He’s blaming everything on China. He's blaming everything on the Chinese. And people don't make a distinction, as you well know, [between] a South Korean and someone from Beijing. They make no distinction. It's Asia. And he's using it as a wedge."

The former vice president has continuously attacked the president's coronavirus response, which he has called ineffective at stopping the virus from spreading, while accusing Trump of "nakedly xenophobic" distractions from his administration's alleged failures.

“The pandemic has unleashed familiar forces of hate, fear and xenophobia that he always flames ... that have always existed in this society,” Biden told the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Victory Fund in May. “But this president brought it with him, has brought with it a new rash of racial messages, verbal and physical attacks, and other acts of hate, some subtle, some overt, against the Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”