Barack Obama And Joe Biden React To George Floyd's Death

May 29, 2020
Originally published on May 29, 2020 7:37 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Joe Biden spoke out today about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee delivered a short speech from his home in Delaware calling on Americans to confront racial divisions.

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JOE BIDEN: You know, this is no time for incendiary tweets. It's no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis. We need real leadership right now, leadership that will bring everyone to the table so we can take measures to root out systemic racism.

CHANG: All right. With more on Biden's reaction, NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow joins us now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: All right. So I understand that Biden started his comments today by saying he had spoken to Floyd's family. Can you just give us a sense of what else Biden had to say about Minneapolis today?

DETROW: Yeah. Biden made it clear that he did not view this as an isolated incident. In fact, he said it's part of a long pattern in the United States going all the way back to slavery. And Biden spoke pretty somberly about George Floyd's death and what it means.

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BIDEN: An act of brutality so elemental it did more than deny one more black man in America his civil rights and human rights. It denied him of his very humanity and denied him of his life.

DETROW: A lot of the language that Biden used was what you've heard from Black Lives Matter and other activist groups on this for a long time. And that's specifically putting this into broader context and also making a point to name several other people of color killed in police custody, including Eric Garner, who died in a similar way in 2014 in New York City.

CHANG: Now, we also heard - at the beginning of this segment, we heard a bit from Biden criticizing the president over his tweets. Did Biden spend a lot of time today, like, making a political case against Trump?

DETROW: He actually did not. And that - what we heard was the full extent of what Biden said about Trump, not even mentioning the president's name. And that was notable to me because so often the president's tone, his divisive approach, it's been central to Biden's campaign message. Biden has framed himself as running as someone who can undo the way that Trump has changed the presidency. And instead, Biden spoke about the need for reform and an honest look at racism in the country before tying it back to the main theme of his presidential campaign, restoring the soul of the nation as Biden so often puts it.

CHANG: OK. Well meanwhile, former President Obama also reacted to George Floyd's death today. Tell us about the message that Obama was trying to send today.

DETROW: Yeah. Obama posted on Facebook sharing some personal reactions from friends he'd been talking to about this. He also shared video of a 12-year-old, Keedron Bryant, singing about fears of being shot by police.

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KEEDRON BRYANT: (Singing) Every day, I'm being hunted as prey. My people don't want no trouble. We've had enough struggle. I just want to live. God, protect me.

DETROW: So that was at the top of President Obama's post. And then after that, the main thrust of his comments were that while everyone wants things to return to normal in this pandemic, Obama was saying normal has been bad for a lot of people, specifically people who are targeted by police because of their race. And that has actually been a central criticism of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, that a lot of those problems were not solved or really improved under the Obama administration.

CHANG: That is NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you, Scott.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.