Biden says Trump putting words in George Floyd’s mouth is ‘despicable’

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Berston Field House in Flint, Michigan on March 9, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Berston Field House in Flint, Michigan on March 9, 2020.

(CNN)Former Vice President Joe Biden sharply criticized President Donald Trump for invoking George Floyd’s name as the President was taking a victory lap over lower unemployment numbers.

During remarks at the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Trump said, “Hopefully George is looking down and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. (It’s) a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.” Floyd was killed last month after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck. His death set off a wave of protests against police brutality across the country.

Later that day, the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee called Trump’s comments “despicable.”

“George Floyd’s last words — ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ — have echoed all across this nation, quite frankly, all around the world. For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd, I frankly think it’s despicable,” Biden said, speaking from Delaware State University, a public historically black university in Dover.

The former vice president continued, “And the fact that he did so on the day when black unemployment rose, Hispanic unemployment rose, black youth unemployment skyrocketed, tells you everything you need to know about this man and what he really cares about.”

Biden’s remarks — part of the former vice president’s efforts to contrast himself with Trump amid civil unrest in the country — come hours after a new jobs report was released that showed the US unemployment rate fell from April to May and that the job market may be recovering well ahead of schedule.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the economy gained 2.5 million jobs, and the jobless rate dropped from 14.7%, which was the worst rate since monthly record keeping began in 1948, to 13.3%. The numbers still reflect enormous levels of unemployment in the US, but economists had expected the unemployment rate to be even worse and rise to nearly 20% in May.

The President took credit for the surprising economic rebound, and called the jobs report “an affirmation of all the work we’ve been doing” over the course of his administration.

Biden said Friday he was “disturbed” to see Trump “crowing this morning, basically hanging a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner out there, when there’s so much more work to be done. So many Americans are still hurting.”

“Donald Trump still doesn’t get it,” Biden said. “He’s out there spiking the ball, completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives.”

His criticism continued: “The President who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs, deserves no credit when a fraction of them return.”

Friday’s jobs numbers showed that black unemployment, 16.8%, remains significantly higher than white unemployment, 12.4%, as the nation struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The former vice president said that, despite all of the work that still needs to be done, he was “truly glad to see” that 2.5 million Americans got their jobs back. “It reminds us (of) the resilience of the American people.”

The speech in Dover is the second major address Biden has given this week, and comes as large protests have swept the nation in the wake of the police killing of Floyd in Minnesota. Biden on Tuesday traveled to Philadelphia and called for Americans to address systemic racism in the United States, empathized with protesters and offered a blistering condemnation of Trump.

Trump this week turned security forces on peaceful protesters in front of the White House — who were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades and rubber bullets — so that he could walk across the street to pose with a Bible in front of a church. The move was criticized by retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, who said Wednesday that Trump is actively trying to divide the country and urged Americans to unite without him. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, said Friday he agrees with Mattis.

“These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced, and Donald Trump is patting himself on the back,” Biden said. “He just has no idea, in my view, what’s really going on in this country. He has no idea the depth of the pain that so many people are still enduring. He remains completely oblivious to the human toll of his indifference. It’s time for him to step out of his own bunker, take a look around the consequences of his words and his actions.”

This story has been updated with additional comments from Biden.

 

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