In a 1998 CNN interview resurfaced by the network, Biden, who was then representing Delaware in the Senate, said impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton could be tantamount to “a partisan lynching.”
“Even if the President should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense,” he told CNN.
Trump has sparked bipartisan backlash with a tweet Tuesday morning in which he claimed to be the victim of a lynching, which is associated in the U.S. with the murderous white mob terrorism used against thousands of Black people, mostly in the Jim Crow era.
As presidential candidates offered strong rebukes of his statement, Biden added to the chorus, calling it “despicable.”
“Our country has a dark, shameful history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent,” he said.
The Biden campaign declined to give a statement to HuffPost on the matter. However, in a tweet published Tuesday night, Biden acknowledged that he regretted his past remark.
“This wasn’t the right word to use and I’m sorry about that,” he said. “Trump on the other hand chose his words deliberately today in his use of the word lynching and continues to stoke racial divides in this country daily.”
Biden is not the only Democrat who used the term in reference to Clinton’s impeachment. At the start of the inquiry, Rep. Maxine Waters of California said that “fundamental fairness and due process requires that we adhere to reason and precedence or else we risk being viewed as no different than the lynch mobs which denied justice to the accused.”
Then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York and Rep. Danny Davis of Illinois also spoke about a “lynching” with regard to Clinton’s impeachment.
Two more Democrats ― then-Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington and Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York ― used the term “lynch mob” in media interviews at the time.
In a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday, Meeks, who is Black, acknowledged his past remarks but noted that “context matters.”
“There is a difference when that word is used by someone of my experience and perspective, whose relatives were the targets of lynch mobs, compared to a president who has dog-whistled to white nationalists and peddled racism,” he said.
Trump has made racist comments on numerous occasions, including his recent social media attacks on lawmakers of color, including four progressive congresswomen and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and his majority-Black Baltimore district, which the president called a “rodent infested mess.”
Trump has also in the past neglected to disavow endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan and infamously claimed after the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist rally that there were “very fine people on both sides” after a counterprotester was hit and killed by a neo-Nazi driver.
This article has been updated with Biden’s response in a tweet.
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