Former Vice President Joe Biden has blasted President Donald Trump's response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. In Biden's view, Trump has "emboldened white supremacists of comfort and support."
On Aug. 27, Biden reflected on the U.S. legacy of race relations in an opinion article for The Atlantic. The former vice president asserted that every civil rights advancement in America was "shadowed by a long trail of violence and hate ... In Charlottesville, that long trail emerged once again into plain view not only for America, but for the whole world to see."
On Aug. 11, white nationalists gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate monument from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. On Aug. 12, members of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi movement and the "alt-right" staged what they called a "Unite the Right" rally in the college town, clashing violently with counter-protesters.
The tense rally ended in death when alt-right member James Alex Field Jr. allegedly drove his vehicle through a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, according to The Washington Post.
"If it wasn't clear before, it's clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation," Biden wrote in the op-ed. "The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America."
Biden asserted that it was not surprising that white nationalists had resurfaced in American public life, writing, "We have fought this battle before -- but today we have a special challenge... Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate."
On Aug. 15, Trump ignited controversy when he asserted that counter-protesters in Charlottesville shared blame with the white nationalists.
"I do think there's blame on both sides... you also had people that were very fine people on both sides," Trump said during a White House press conference, reports CNBC.
The president added that he believed not all participants in the white nationalist rally were racists and "the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."
Biden asserted, "This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can't with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America."
The former vice president accused Trump of dividing the American public and inflaming race relations.
"He won't stop," Biden wrote of Trump. "His contempt for the U.S. Constitution and willingness to divide this nation knows no bounds. Now he's pardoned a law-enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitutional rights, defied a federal court order to stop, and ran a prison system so rife with torture and abuse he himself called it a 'concentration camp.'"
Biden was referring to Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a judge's order to stop racially profiling Latino residents in his jurisdiction. On Aug. 27, Trump issued a presidential pardon of Arpaio, who was facing up to six months in prison, CNN reports.
On Aug. 23, a Quinnipiac University survey found that 32 percent of national adults approved of Trump's response to the Charlottesville rally while 60 percent disapproved. Of respondents, 59 percent believed that Trump had encouraged white nationalists through his remarks.
Many speculate Biden may mount a campaign to challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The former vice president has given mixed signals on whether he would seek the White House.
On June 15, Biden told NPR, "I have no intention of running for president but I'm a great respecter of fate ... I don't have any plans to do it, but I'm not promising I wouldn't do it."