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Former Vice President Joe Biden told a Philadelphia audience that George Floyd’s death while in police custody has had a larger worldwide impact than the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
The Democratic nominee for president contrasted the two events during an economic roundtable in Philadelphia on Thursday, contending that cellphone cameras have made Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes instantly accessible to a worldwide audience.
“Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did,” Biden said.
“It’s just like television changed the Civil Rights movement for the better when they saw Bull Connor and his dogs ripping the clothes off of elderly black women going to church and fire hoses ripping the skin off of young kids,” he continued, noting how the prevalence of television in American homes in the 1960s changed the way the nation viewed racial inequality.
“What happened to George Floyd — now you got how many people around the country, millions of cell phones. It’s changed the way everybody’s looking at this,” Biden said. “Look at the millions of people marching around the world.”
“So my point is that I think people are really realizing that this is a battle for the soul of America. Who are we? What do we want to be? How do we see ourselves? What do we think we should be? Character is on the ballot here. That’s what this is about,” he continued, going on to tout his proposals that will cost Americans “a lot of money.”
“And so that’s why I’m convinced that with rational proposals, that cost a lot of money, the American public is ready to step up. They understand the need to make these systemic changes, dealing from racism to structures that our economy has just stacked the deck against anybody who doesn’t have any money,” he said.
Biden has repeatedly come under fire from the black community of his support of the 1994 crime bill when he was a Delaware senator. The controversial bill led to stiffer penalties and mass incarcerations that affected large numbers of African-Americans.
Several of Biden’s proposed reforms were included in a bill introduced by House and Senate Democrats Monday amid a grandstanding spectacle of lawmakers sporting traditional African Kente cloth. The Justice in Policing Act proposes sweeping legislation aimed at limiting some of the legal protections for police while increasing their accountability.
Biden’s remarks about King Jr. came on the heels of many Democrats pushing to abolish or cut funding for police departments in the wake of Floyd’s death. But the former vice president sought to distance himself from the movement.
“I don’t support defunding the police,” Biden told “CBS Evening News” earlier this week. “I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community, everybody in the community.”
Twitter users slammed the comparison of Floyd’s death to that of the great civil rights leader by Biden, who recently came under fire when he lectured Americans that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
“I can’t wait to hear the spin doctors try to salvage this one,” actor James Woods tweeted.
Joe Biden really said, like REALLY said, George Floyd’s death made more of an impact than DR MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
I have no more words for today. Wow.
— Penny Layne 🇺🇸 (@PennyLa62941613) June 11, 2020
A lot of #Democrats tried to fix it by saying it was in the context of today’s social media. The message was still bad.
— J. Scott McPhee (@JScottMcPhee) June 11, 2020
— D.GILES (@DrinkNForte) June 11, 2020
I’m confused 😕 Should IMPACT be measured by the ideals the individual stood and died for or by how many people paid attention to it? Is IMPACT to be determined by principle or by popularity?
— Ma.rto🇰🇪🇹🇭 (@MartinNKaranja) June 12, 2020
Open mouth…insert foot.
— Mohan (@Mohan17311240) June 12, 2020
The comparison is gross.
MLK had a powerful message, resonating still today, & lead by example. Even though both deaths were sad & tragic, had there been social media/internet back then no way would this even be a consideration. This comment would be a giant joke like Biden is.
— TMZ (@Koslenko) June 11, 2020
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