Biden in Kenosha: Trump has 'legitimized a dark side of human nature'

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Biden says Ginsburg successor should be picked by candidate who wins on Nov. 3 MORE on Thursday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE has "legitimized a dark side of human nature” in remarks at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wis.

Speaking at a community gathering to address the recent civil unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, Biden said the unrest is not entirely Trump’s fault, but that the president had emboldened racists and inflamed racial tensions at a time when the nation is deeply divided.

The former vice president told a story about how protests had destroyed his hometown of Wilmington, Del., years ago following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said he recently looked out over Wilmington and was briefly encouraged to see how it had been rebuilt.

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“I said, don’t tell me things can’t change … but I made a mistake about something,” Biden said. “I thought you could defeat hate. It only hides. And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks to come on out from under the rocks.” 

Biden brought up Trump’s response to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., as evidence of the president’s failed leadership on race. 

“It’s not all [Trump’s] fault,” Biden added. “But it legitimized a dark side of human nature. What it did though, was also expose what had not been paid enough attention to. The underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States that still exists and has for 400 years. So we end up with a circumstance like we have here in Kenosha.”

At the church, Biden heard from community members, including a white business owner who said her store had been destroyed by rioters and a Black attorney who pleaded with him to address criminal justice reform.

Earlier in the day, Biden huddled with Blake’s father, brother, two sisters and members of his legal team. Blake and his mother called in from the hospital.

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"He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not he was not going to give up," Biden said.

Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, said the conversation focused on “changing the disparate treatment of minorities in police interactions, the impact of selecting Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins Kamala Harris: Black Americans have been 'disproportionately harmed' by Trump Biden town hall draws 3.3 million viewers for CNN MORE as a Black woman as his running mate, and Vice President Biden’s plans for change.” 

“The vice president told the family that he believes the best of America is in all of us and that we need to value all our differences as we come together in America’s great melting pot,” Crump said. “It was very obvious that Vice President Biden cared, as he extended to Jacob Jr. a sense of humanity, treating him as a person worthy of consideration and prayer.”

Trump toured Kenosha earlier in the week to highlight the businesses that had been destroyed as part of the protests. The president has blamed Democratic officials in cities for allowing protesters to destroy property.

The president’s campaign has leaned into the message that the nation’s cities would be violent and unlivable spaces if Biden is elected president. 

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“Americans didn’t hear any denunciation of Antifa or any other left-wing agitators who have rioted in American cities from coast to coast,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “He said nothing about Wisconsin Gov. Tony EversTony EversCast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Biden seeks somber contrast to Trump in Kenosha MORE’ acceptance of federal assistance from President Trump to quell the riots and did not explain that he opposed calling in the National Guard to protect Americans from violent left-wing rioters. Joe Biden made this above-ground excursion from his basement for purely political reasons and it shows.”

Biden gave a speech earlier this week denouncing the violent aspects of the protests.

“Let’s get something straight here, protesting is protesting … but none of it justifies burning, looting or anything else,” Biden said. “So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or burn you should be held accountable the same as someone who has done anything else, period.”

Biden leads Trump by 4 points in Wisconsin, according to the RealClearPolitics average. The Trump campaign accused Biden of politicizing the unrest.

“Joe Biden made a political trip to Kenosha today – his first visit to Wisconsin – after months of saying he could not travel because of the science of coronavirus,” Murtaugh said. “What changed was political science, as he knows he is in serious decline in the polls.”