President Biden on Tuesday called white supremacy a “poison” in the U.S. and called on Americans to reject the racist white “replacement theory” believed to have inspired the gunman behind the tragic Buffalo, N.Y., mass shooting.
“I call on all Americans to reject the lie,” Biden said in emotional remarks from Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon. ”I condemn those who spread the lie for power, for political gain and for profit.”
“We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America,” Biden said. “None.”
Biden delivered the remarks after he and first lady Jill Biden met with families of the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting, which police are investigating as a racially motivated hate crime.
Biden called the weekend shooting that left 10 dead an act of “domestic terrorism.”
“What happened here is simple and straightforward: Terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism,” Biden said. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.”
The president broadly called out the media, politics and the internet for radicalizing individuals and spreading the racist “replacement theory” that white people, in particular, are at risk of being replaced by minority groups. But he did not single out any particular individual, even as Fox News prime-time hosts and certain Republican lawmakers have come under scrutiny in recent days for their rhetoric about immigrants and their resistance to denouncing notions of white supremacy.
Other Democrats, like Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have taken a different approach. Schumer, who was with Biden on Tuesday in Buffalo, wrote to Fox News executives asking that they stop what he called the “reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement’ theory” on the network.
Biden condemned the shooting over the weekend, but Tuesday’s speech represented his most extensive remarks to date about the tragedy.
Ten people were killed and three wounded when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at a Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighborhood on Saturday afternoon. The shooting has led to renewed calls for gun control legislation at the federal level and demands that the government do more to stamp out the threat of white supremacy.
Biden only briefly called for fresh action on gun control, renewing his call for a ban on assault weapons and urging action to “address the relentless exploitation of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism.”
The prospect of passing gun control legislation is unlikely at best. Republicans have long been opposed to further federal gun restrictions, and Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to vote with them in the Senate to overcome the legislative filibuster to pass most legislation.
Biden later acknowledged the difficulty of getting Congress to pass gun legislation, telling reporters before departing Buffalo: “It is going to be very difficult, but I am not going to give up.”
Instead, the president’s speech was largely a condemnation of white supremacy, which Biden decried as “a poison … running through our body politic,” and as a tribute to those who were killed during a typical weekend trip to the supermarket.
Prior to his remarks, the president and first lady met with victim’s families and paid their respects at a memorial outside the grocery store. The first lady said a brief thank you to the families of the victims before Biden began his remarks.
At the beginning of the speech, Biden reflected on the victims, naming each one and reading personal details about their lives. He choked up at one point as he told the story of one of the victims who had gone to the market to buy his son a birthday cake.
The president grasped for a unifying tone, expressing optimism that Americans can rise up against “hate” and “evil.”
“We have to refuse to live in a country where Black people going about a weekly grocery shopping can be gunned down by weapons of war deployed in a racist cause,” Biden said. “We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit. We must all enlist in this great cause of America.”