President Joe Biden said Thursday that white supremacy is what motivated supporters of Donald Trump to attack the Capitol on Jan. 6 and accused his predecessor of appealing to racists.
The president spoke at the 10-year anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he said he believed that “the violent, deadly insurrection on the Capitol nine months ago” was about white supremacy.
He then mentioned the “through-line” of American racism, from enslaved Black people to the Ku Klux Klan, to far-right white supremacists and neo-Nazis. That timeline includes other recent episodes of racism in America, with Biden bringing up the spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans, police brutality against Black and brown people, the 2017 deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The through-line is that hate never goes away. In all the years I’ve been involved, I thought once we got through it, it would go away. But it doesn’t; it only hides,” he said. “It only hides until some seeming legitimate person breathes some oxygen under the rocks where they’re hiding, and gives them some breath.”
“I’ve said it before. … according to the United States intelligence community, domestic terrorism from white supremacists is the most lethal terrorist threat in the homeland,” Biden continued. He later added: “We cannot and must not give hate any safe harbor.”
Biden denounced Trump for appealing to his racist followers with hateful rhetoric and speeches meant to rile up his base. The then-president is still pushing the false narrative that Biden only won the 2020 election due to voter fraud.
Trump has effectively convinced many Republican lawmakers and constituents that the election was rigged (it wasn’t) and that he should have remained in power. Those lies resulted in his followers attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 in order to overturn the election results.
To about half of Republicans, “I am not your president. Donald Trump is still your president,” Biden said, calling out Trump by name in an unusual move for him. He then did the sign of the cross while joking, “As we Catholics say, ‘Oh my God.’”
Since Trump’s 2020 election loss, Republican officials have introduced and passed measures that make it more difficult to vote, especially for Black and brown people who turned out in record numbers to unseat Trump. Senate Republicans have now used the filibuster to block three pieces of legislation meant to secure voting rights.
Biden said that Republicans threatening the right to vote are “following my predecessor, the last president, into a deep, deep black hole and abyss.”
“The good news is that he ripped the Band-Aid off ― and made it absolutely clear what’s at stake,” Biden said. “I think the American people will follow us, but guess what? Whether they will or not, we have no choice. We have to continue to fight.”