At a town hall meeting, a home care provider spoke to former Vice President Joe Biden about racist rhetoric targeting Asian Americans during the pandemic. Biden responded by leaning into racism allegations against President Donald Trump.
“We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has,” Biden said July 22.
Biden’s pointed statement was memorable for a few reasons: Not only was he calling the sitting president a racist, but Biden also asserted that no other racists held the office before Trump.
Historians say this is wrong. Various presidents since the country’s founding can be considered racist, whether because they enslaved Black people, held racist beliefs, or used racist rhetoric.
Multiple early presidents, including Thomas Jefferson, enslaved Black people. Andrew Jackson forced Native Americans from their lands, causing migrations in which many died. Andrew Johnson sought to undermine Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War. Woodrow Wilson, a Southerner with nostalgia for the antebellum South, re-segregated the federal government. Still others privately used racial slurs or believed whites were the superior race.
“If Mr. Biden wanted to call the president a racist, he should have done so and left it at that,” said H.W. Brands, a history professor at The University of Texas at Austin. “Bringing in history confuses the issue.”
Read the rest at: politifact.com