News and Commentary

SICHEL: The Big Charlottesville Lie
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, speaks during the Democratic National Convention at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Biden accepted the Democratic nomination to challenge President Donald Trump, urging Americans in a prime-time address to vote for new national leadership that will overcome deep U.S. political divisions. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In his Aug. 20 speech accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Joe Biden repeated his central charge against Donald Trump: that the president of the United States said that neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and white supremacists are “very fine people.”

“Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it?” Biden said, referring to the repulsive and tragic events in Charlottesville three summers ago.

“Remember what the president said? There were quote, ‘very fine people on both sides.’ It was a wake-up call for us as a country. And for me, a call to action. At that moment, I knew I’d have to run.”

Biden’s announcement video in April 2019 focused on the “very fine people” charge, and he brought it up in his first event with running mate Kamala Harris on Aug. 12. And maybe he has mentioned it publicly many more times than I’m aware of during his campaign.

Trump’s awful comment is, according to Joe Biden, the reason he is running for the presidency.

But it’s complete, absolute, unreserved bullsh*t.

And not the type of harmless bullsh*t that politicians say to get elected.

Biden’s “very fine people” charge is a dangerous, divisive, and deliberate tool of propaganda and misinformation.

But but but Donald Trump lies all the time!

 So let’s make room in our head for these two thoughts: Donald Trump tells lies, and Joe Biden’s campaign is based on a huge lie.

The. Lie. That Donald Trump called the neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and white supremacists in Charlottesville “very fine people.”

He didn’t. Explicitly didn’t. In fact, he clearly and undeniably condemned them.

If you’re certain that I’m wrong, if you know that you watched a video where Donald Trump said the torch-carrying racist a**holes in Charlottesville have some “very fine people,” I promise that you are incorrect.

Read the transcript of Trump’s press conference after Charlottesville. You will see that what he said is not what Joe Biden says he said.

Trump said, “You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” Fifty seconds later (I watched an unedited video) he says, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally, but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats – you had a lot of bad people in the other group too.”

This is obviously more nuanced than Biden’s characterization. It’s the opposite.

According to Trump’s comments, it’s fair to say that in his understanding there was one group that opposed taking down Confederate statues and one group that supported it. Both groups had some “very fine people” and some very bad people (neo-Nazis and violent Antifa members).

Perhaps Trump’s understanding of who was at the rally and how it played out was mistaken, but that’s not what Biden is basing his run for the presidency on. The motive for his campaign is to beat the “very fine people on both sides” guy.

So why do I care?

I don’t vote for presidential tickets anymore, so I feel less invested politically than I have in previous elections. But Biden’s lie especially bothers me because it makes Americans hate each other.

Millions of people believe the lie that people who vote for Trump – a lot of people – want a president who condones Nazis. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination or a suspension of logic to see why that belief creates hatred, or how it leads to violence.

Joe Biden said in his acceptance speech, “Let us begin – you and I together, one nation, under God – united in our love for America and united in our love for each other.”

Unity and love. That’s Biden’s pitch. But the big Charlottesville lie makes unity and love impossible.

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