Biden made the claim at a virtual town hall on Wednesday after being asked about Trump’s decision to call the coronavirus the “China virus” or “Wuhan virus” whenever he speaks publicly about the pandemic, which places a stigma on Asian people.
“The way he deals with people based on the colour of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening,” Biden said.
“No sitting president has ever done this,” Biden added. “Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”
The former vice president said that Trump pitted people against each other to “divide the country, divide people, not pull them together.”
Though Trump is known for making racist remarks, provoking racial tension in the country and attacking people of colour, he is not the first racist elected to the White House.
There were a number of presidents who either owned slaves, held racist views or were overtly racist.
President Andrew Jackson, also a slave owner, would order “harsh, even brutal punishment for enslaved people who disobeyed orders,” according to the White House Historical Association. Jackson was also responsible for the Indian Removal Act, which forced Native Americans off their tribal lands in the South so white settlers could grow cotton. The expulsion led to the infamous “Trail of Tears.”
In July 2019, a historian uncovered a recording of Ronald Reagan calling African delegates of the United Nations “monkeys” during a phone call with President Richard Nixon in 1971. Reagan was the governor of California at the time of the call.
“To see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes,” Reagan told Nixon, according to The Atlantic.
During World War II in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced Japanese Americans into prison camps.
When asked about Biden’s remarks during the White House coronavirus update, Trump boasted about how his administration has benefited Black and minority communities.
“Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country and doing terrible things, we had the best African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, almost every group was the best for unemployment,” Trump said.
Trump added: “Most importantly, when you look at criminal justice reform … I’ve done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close.”
Biden has also been accused of racial insensitivity.
In May, he suggested to New York radio host Charlamagne Tha God that Black voters who supported Trump over him “ain’t black.”
Biden later said he “should not have been so cavalier” with his comment and said he’d never “take the African American community for granted.”