I had the opportunity on Thursday to ask former vice president Joe Biden a direct question about his claim that President Donald Trump called neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very fine people” after the Charlottesville riots in August 2017.
In fact, Trump said, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally.” Biden denied that fact, but the transcript does not lie.
The Charlottesville hoax (or “very fine people” hoax) has become central to the claim in the media that Trump is a racist — so much so that when mainstream media outlets covered my confrontation with Biden, they still refused to include the full Trump quote.
Some, like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, covered the event by informing viewers, falsely, that Trump had not condemned the neo-Nazis and that the “Breitbart reporter” was wrong. Talk about fake news.
Biden has made the “very fine people” hoax central to his campaign. He launched his campaign in a video referring — falsely — to Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville; he even briefly considered holding a rally in Charlottesville. And he is not the only one: every leading Democrat has repeated the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax in a joint effort to cast President Trump as a white supremacist fellow traveler who has incited deadly racial violence:
Kamala Harris: In a CNN town hall in January, Harris told Jake Tapper: “We have seen when Charlottesville and a woman was killed, that we’ve had a president who basically said, well, there were equal sides to this.” Tapper, who later acknowledged that Trump had not, in fact, called white supremacists and neo-Nazis “very fine people,” did not correct her. Harris repeated the claim in June, claiming on Twitter that Trump had “called neo-Nazis ‘fine people.’”
Elizabeth Warren: This week, Warren told the New York Times she thought Trump was a white supremacist, citing Charlottesville: “He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists … He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.” The Times reported in 2017 that some in Charlottesville were “good people,” but did not correct her.
Bernie Sanders: Sanders, like Biden, has made the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax a staple of his stump speech. In a recent essay, he claimed that Trump “coddles Nazis and Klansmen” and added that: “seeing an American president describe people marching under a swastika as ‘good people; fills me with anger and disgust.” Ironically, Sanders also made the same claim at a conference held by Al Sharpton, who has a long record of bigotry.
Beto O’Rourke: In a CNN town hall in May, O’Rourke claimed that Trump had called “Klansman and Nazis and white supremacists ‘very fine people’.” He did so again on CNN this week, claiming that Trump was inciting racists to commit mass shootings like the one in El Paso, Texas, because “he says after Charlottesville that Klansman and white supremacists and neo-Nazis are “very fine people’. Tapper, who knows the truth, did not correct his guest.
The fact is that President Trump has probably condemned white supremacy and neo-Nazis more than any president in American history — from the White House, from the Capitol, in interviews and in press conferences. The media do not give him credit, and his opponents do not care.
But the Charlottesville “very fine people” hoax remains a lie. And if Donald Trump were a white supremacist, it would not be necessary to lie repeatedly about what he said.