Joe Biden condemned those who spread white supremacist lies “for power, political gain and profit” during a visit to Buffalo, New York, where 10 people were killed in a racist shooting last Saturday.
The US president was on the verge of tears as he recalled the lives of the victims, then grew angry as he described the forces of hate that haunted his administration.
“In America evil will not win, I promise you that,” Biden said. “Hate will not prevail and white supremacy will not have the last word.”
The mass shooting rocked a nation that can sometimes seem numb to atrocities and marked an alarming convergence of racist extremism, gun violence and the radicalizing effects of social media.
He also revealed the scale of the challenge facing Biden, who ran for president to restore ‘the soul of America’ after his predecessor Donald Trump’s failure to expose a murderous white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and took office weeks after an assault on the United States Capitol that included white nationalist groups.
Authorities say 18-year-old Payton Gendron opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle Saturday at Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo. He hit 13 people with gunfire, killing 10, and used a camera to broadcast the rampage live.
Police said they are investigating Gendron’s online posts, which included a 180-page manifesto he allegedly wrote outlining the “great replacement” theory, which baselessly claims white people are intentionally invaded by people. other races through immigration or higher birth rates.
The “great replacement” theory was brought into the mainstream by some Republican members of Congress as well as Tucker Carlson, the most-watched prime-time host on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Network.
In moving and pointed remarks in Buffalo, Biden did not name names but made it clear that such violence is taking place in a larger political context. “What happened here is plain and simple terrorism,” he said. “Terrorism. Domestic terrorism. Violence inflicted in the service of hatred and a vicious lust for power that defines a group of people as inherently inferior to any other group. Hate.
“And through media and politics, the internet has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be replaced – that’s the word, replaced – by the other. people who do not resemble them and who are therefore, in the perverse ideology which they possess and which they are fed, inferior beings.Me and all of you reject the lie.
He added to applause, “I call on all Americans to reject the lie and condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and profit.”
In recent years, America has witnessed hate-motivated mass shootings in Charleston, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Dallas, Biden noted.
“White supremacy is poison,” Biden said. “It’s a poison – it really is – running through our body politic, and it’s been left to fester and grow before our eyes. No more. I mean, no more. We have to say too clearly and forcefully as possible that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. Nothing. Look, not saying it’s going to be complicity. Silence is complicity. It’s complicity. We we cannot remain silent.”
The president also warned: “The American experiment in democracy is in danger as it was not in my lifetime. He’s in danger right now. Hatred and fear are getting too much oxygen from those who claim to love America but don’t understand it. To confront the ideology of hatred, one must care for everyone, not make distinctions.
Earlier, Biden and his wife, Jill, laid a bouquet of white flowers on a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and condolence messages set up under a tree outside Tops supermarket.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown hosted the Bidens and the two state senators.
The president, who publicly mourned the death of his son in 2015, suffered other significant personal losses and is often praised for his empathy, found himself once again in the role of chief comforter. “It’s not the same, but we kind of know what it’s like to lose a piece of your soul,” he said.
After touring the supermarket, the Bidens went behind closed doors to the Delavan Grider Community Center and met with the families of the victims.
Ruby Davis, an elderly woman who is standing behind police lines two blocks from Tops, said: “He’s coming to show his love because there’s so much hate around.”
But more than love and support, residents said, they want action. Cherell Toe, 50, said: “If the laws don’t change, it gives permission to continue and it sends the message that there are no consequences for your actions – to take a life based on your color or your race.”
Biden was later questioned by a reporter, before boarding Air Force One to leave Buffalo: “Do you believe that certain members of Congress, the Republican party, as well as Tucker Carlson, who echoed the theory of the replacement, deserve to be blamed for violence acts like that? »
Biden said, “Anyone echoing a replacement is to blame – not for this particular crime. But… that’s just plain wrong.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President Derrick Johnson told The Associated Press, “It’s important for him to come forward to families and the community and express his condolences. But we are more concerned about preventing this from happening again in the future.
Still, the trip underscored how far Biden still needs to go to root out the rise of white supremacist groups or improve gun safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States in 2020.
Biden has called on Congress to require new background checks on gun buyers and ban military-style “assault” weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. But the effort has been blocked by congressional Republicans.
The Republicans’ drift to the far right has also come under renewed scrutiny. Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans in the House of Representatives to break with Trump, tweeted that his own party’s leaders had “enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism.” History has taught us that what begins with words ends up much worse.
Barack Obama tweeted: “We must repudiate in the strongest terms the politicians and media personalities who – whether for political gain or to boost ratings – have used their platforms to promote and normalize the “replacement theory” and other clearly racist, anti-Semitic and nativist elements. conspiracy theories.”
On Tuesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Murdoch and other senior Fox News executives urging them to “immediately cease the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘great replacement’ theory.” “on your network’s broadcasts”.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said the Biden administration was implementing a “national, government-wide strategy to combat domestic terrorism.”