CLAIM: Joe Biden has “repeatedly” condemned violence that has erupted alongside protests over the last several months.
VERDICT: MISLEADING. Biden has condemned violence, but infrequently, and usually while criticizing police as well.
The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden is set to air nationwide ads about law and order. The ads will reportedly feature excerpts from his speech in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on Monday.
The Times added: “Mr. Biden has repeatedly condemned instances in which protests for racial justice have burst into violence.”
While it is true that Biden condemned violence on several occasions, he did so infrequently, and often did so while falsely blaming police, or his political opponent, and overlooking the fact that many “peaceful protesters” were not, in fact, peaceful.
In the most recent case, Biden failed to condemn rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 24, but called the police shooting of Jacob Blake “systemic racism.” Only two days later, under intense pressure from allies, did he personally condemn the riots.
The Biden campaign initially just pointed to his earlier statement on June 2 condemning violence in the wake of the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd. But that was nearly three months earlier, and it suggested a gap in Biden’s record.
Notably, that June 2 statement also appeared to blame police for the violence, at least partly. Biden said (emphasis added):
There’s no place for violence, no place for looting or destroying property or burning churches or destroying businesses, many of them built by the very people of color who are [for] the first time in their lives are beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families. Nor is it acceptable for our police, sworn to protect and serve all people, to escalate tension, resort to excessive violence. We need to distinguish between legitimate, peaceful protests and opportunistic violent destruction.
The Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake recently identified several other instances in which Biden condemned violence (all of which were also covered by Breitbart News).
Arguably, the only one that was unequivocal was on May 30, in the midst of riots in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which had begun to spread to other cities. “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not. Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not,” Biden said on that occasion.
The day before, Biden condemned violence in an appearance on CNN — but in the same breath, he condemned President Donald Trump for allegedly giving bigotry “oxygen” since Charlottesville — a reference to the “very fine people” hoax.
On July 28, Biden condemned violence in a speech on racial equality: “I said from the outset of the recent protests that there is no place for violence or destruction of property. Peaceful protesters should be protected, and arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted.” But he blamed Trump for “intentionally stoking the flames of division and racism in this country.”
On several occasions, Biden has also wrongly blamed law enforcement for the ongoing violence, and joined Democrats in repeating the false claim that violent rioters in places like Portland and Washington, DC, were, in fact, “peaceful protesters.”
In July, for example, he claimed — falsely — that “peaceful protesters were gassed to make way for a Trump photo op” on June 1 in Washington, DC. He also said that federal law enforcement agents were “brutally attacking peaceful protesters” in Portland — while failing to condemn the violent attacks by rioters against law enforcement and against a federal courthouse. And Biden also made the demonstrably false claim that “Homeland Security agents — without a clearly defined mandate or authority — are ranging far from federal property [in Portland], stripped of badges and insignia and identifying markings.”
Biden repeated the false claim about peaceful protesters in Washington, DC, when he made another false claim that Trump had held a Bible upside down when he stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church after walking across Lafayette Square.
Throughout the Democratic National Convention in August, neither Biden nor his party condemned the violence and rioting that continued throughout the week in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere. It was a telling omission — one Trump noted. The Republican National Convention highlighted the urban violence, and showed Trump standing proudly with law enforcement.
After Biden’s failure to condemn riots in Kenosha, his allies were sufficiently concerned that they went on television to urge him to say something about the violence. “Joe Biden needs to be very, very strong on the fact that while protesters are okay — they’re a positive thing, they’re America — this violence needs to be deeply condemned and deeply condemned now. Sooner rather than later, in my opinion,” said former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Never Trump Republican who backs Biden.
That is why Biden is trying to change his tone now. The polls are shifting, and equivocation is no longer good enough.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.