In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper that aired Monday after Trump gave a speech calling for unity and condemning white supremacy and all forms of racial hatred, Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden compared Trump's rhetoric to that of the Ku Klux Klan and accused him of having "flat abandoned the theory that we are one people."
In a televised speech from the White House Monday, President Trump addressed the horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, which took the lives of at least 29 people and injured dozens more, by condemning all forms of "racist hate," particularly white supremacy, which appears to have motivated the El Paso shooter.
"The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online, consumed by racist hate," said the president. "In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."
The president also called for greater unity and bipartisanship to address the growing problem of mass shootings. "We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion," he said. "In that task, we must honor the sacred memory of those we have lost, by acting as one people. Open wounds cannot heal if we are divided. We must seek real bipartisan solutions – we have to do that, in a bipartisan manner – that will truly make America safer and better for all."
In an interview after Trump's call for a greater sense of unity in the country, Biden blasted the president as a divider who uses "dog whistles" to stir up racism and fear – just like "the Ku Klux Klan" and Andrew Jackson.
Cooper set up Biden's brutal critique of Trump by asking about what is "behind the rhetoric" of the president, which the host framed as "an effort basically to stoke white supremacists or nationalists to at least give them a dog whistle."
"They do have a dog whistle. They do have a dog whistle," said Biden (partial transcript via RCP). "Look, this is a president who has said things no other president has said since Andrew Jackson. Nobody said anything like the things he's saying. And the idea that this doesn't contribute to or legitimate or make it more rational for people to think that we, in fact, can now speak out, we can speak out and be more straightforward and make this an issue."
"We've been through this before," Biden continued. "We went through this before in the '20s with the Ku Klux Klan and 50,000 people walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in their hats and robes because they decided they didn't want Catholics coming into the country. We went through it after the Civil War in terms of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy. This is about separating people and the good and bad in his mind. ... It is about access to power. It is a trait used by charlatans all over the world, divide people, divide them and pit them against one another."
Cooper then offered Biden some phrasing to give his critique even more edge. "If that is the case, I mean it is a very dangerous game then that he is playing," said Cooper.
"There is no question it's a dangerous game," said Biden. "There is no question that his rhetoric has contributed to at a minimum, at a minimum of dumbing down the way in which we as a society talk about one another. Look, we've always brought the country together. ... 'We the people. We hold these truths to be self-evident'. He flies in the face of all of the basic things that we've never really met the standard, we've never abandoned it before. He looks like he's just flat abandoned the theory that we are one people."