Biden Makes Trump's 'Very Fine People' Comment the Focus of His Campaign Launch

4/25/2019 Adam Ford -- The first two words of former VP Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid: “Charlottesville, Virginia.”

With vivid imagery from the 2017 Charlottesville violence, invoking “Klansman and white supremacists and neo-Nazis,” Biden’s campaign launch video focuses on painting Trump as a hate-enabler. 

The dramatic climax of the video hinges on Biden’s disgust at the president’s infamous “very fine people on both sides” comment. Biden said Trump is a “threat to this nation unlike any I’ve ever seen in my lifetime” and ended with these words: “We can’t forget what happened in Charlottesville. Even more important, we have to remember who we are. This is America.”

Note well: This is a curious campaign linchpin, as Biden and his many aides have undoubtedly seen the full transcript of the infamous “very fine people” press conference, which clearly shows in context that Trump did not call neo-Nazis or white supremacists “fine people.” In fact, he said they should be “condemned totally”:

TRUMP: Excuse me. They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group — excuse me, excuse me — I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

TRUMP: George Washington as a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down — excuse me — are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? Cause he was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It’s fine. You are changing history, you’re changing culture. You had people -- and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. O.K.? 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.

REPORTER: Who has the press treated unfairly? Sir, I’m sorry, I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just didn’t understand what you were saying.

TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally. I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I am sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest. Because I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this. There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final question? Do you have an infrastructure question?

That Biden and his team chose this to be their launching point and brand differentiator within a historically crowded 2020 field is surprising, and likely indicitave of the campaign's future strategy.

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