President Joe Biden responded Wednesday to the deadly shootings in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six Asian women. He excoriated anti-Asian attacks as “un-American” and expressed sympathy for the pain felt by Asian Americans in the aftermath of the attack.
“We don’t yet know the motive, but what we do know is that the Asian-American community is feeling enormous pain tonight,” Biden said in a statement posted to Twitter. “The recent attacks against the community are un-American. They must stop.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Biden told reporters that the investigation into Tuesday’s attacks were ongoing.
“I’m making no connection at this moment to the motivation of the killer, and waiting for an answer as the investigation proceeds from the FBI and from the Justice Department,” Biden told reporters.
Regardless of the shooter’s motivation, however, the president said he knows “Asian Americans are very concerned, because as you know I’ve been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans for the last couple of months, and I think it’s very troubling.”
Biden’s remarks stand in stark contrast to the anti-Asian rhetoric from former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” ― a term echoed by some of his Republican allies.
Last year, 164 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution to condemn racism against Asian Americans.
On Wednesday, first lady Jill Biden also offered condolences to the victims’ families, calling the shootings a “senseless tragedy.”
A lone suspect, Robert Aaron Long, was apprehended Tuesday night outside of Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia. Authorities say he was en route to Florida, where he may have intended to carry out further attacks.
Investigators said it’s “too early” to determine if the shooting was racially motivated. But the identities of the majority of the victims sparked outrage across the country, prompting many to speak out against racist hate crimes proliferating against people of Asian descent.
Biden condemned violence against Asian Americans during his speech marking the anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month.
“At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans, they’re on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives, and still, still, they’re forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said at the time. “It’s wrong, it’s un-American and it must stop.”
Asian Americans have reported an alarming surge of racist attacks since January 2020, when the coronavirus was first detected in China. Stop AAPI Hate, an advocacy group formed to track such attacks, has recorded nearly 4,000 incidents of anti-Asian racism over the last year.
Violent assaults of older Asian Americans, including some that have resulted in deaths, have shocked communities in recent weeks. One study found that hate crimes against Asians had increased by 150% in America’s largest cities in 2020.
This article has been updated with Biden’s statement on Twitter.