Former vice president Joe Biden sharply denounced President Trump Friday as dishonoring George Floyd, the man whose brutal treatment by Minneapolis police ignited a week of nation-wide demonstrations, during Trump’s silver-lining response to a historically bad jobs report.
“George Floyd’s last words — ‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe’ — have echoed across our nation,” said Biden, speaking at historically black Delaware State University in Dover. “For the President to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd — is frankly despicable.”
Biden was referring to remarks made earlier in the day when Trump suggested that new Labor Department statistics showing a slight improvement in employment marked a “great day” for Floyd, whose memorial was Thursday.
“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this a great thing that’s happening for our country,” Trump said. “There’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.”
The federal unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent in May from 14.7 percent in April, the Department of Labor said Friday. Though the rate remained at levels not seen since World War II, the improvement from last month surprised experts and potentially signaled a speedier recovery than had been expected.
But black Americans, the figures confirmed, have been hit particularly hard. Their unemployment rate, already higher than that of white people, increased from 16.7 percent in April to 16.8 percent in May. Whites saw their unemployment rate drop to 12.4 percent from 14.2 percent.
Biden also tweaked Trump for briefly retreating to the White House bunker on Friday as demonstrators massed around the White House and crossed security fences. “It’s time for him to step out of his bunker” and take responsibility for his actions, Biden said.
Trump has mocked Biden for working from his basement in Delaware for weeks during the pandemic. Trump continued doing in-person events from the White House throughout the pandemic.
This week, as stay-at-home orders lifted in many parts of the country, Biden has resumed a limited travel schedule. The Dover speech was his second formal address in a week. On Tuesday he offered remarks in Philadelphia about race and the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
Most of Biden’s speech in Dover focused on the economy and Trump’s response to the day’s job report.
“I was disturbed to see the president crowing this morning,” Biden said. “Basically hanging a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner out there when there’s so much more work to be done.”
During his news conference Friday, Trump touted the better-than-expected numbers and referred to the economic growth as “a rocket-ship,” adding: “This is outstanding what’s happened today.”
The economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May, as many states and counties began to reopen with the slowing of coronavirus cases nationwide. However, 30 million workers are collecting unemployment benefits, showing how significantly the labor market has been upended.
In his remarks, Biden focused on the Americans who remain jobless. “So many Americans are still hurting,” Biden said, referring to the millions of Americans still out of work. “For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold, and they’re still struggling to put food on the table.”
“The president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs deserves no credit when a fraction of them return,” Biden said. The former vice president has long said that he does not blame Trump for the pandemic, but holds him responsible for the delayed effort to blunt it that led to extensive closures for months and the resulting economic collapse.
Biden said he is “worried” about signs “deeper in the data” that the economy faces challenges, noting that temporary layoffs went down while the number of permanent layoffs increased.
“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.”
Biden said he’s preparing to release a more robust plan to improve the country’s economy, a promise that he’s made during a number of recent events. His plan, he said, is “anchored” in making investments in small business and, he said, trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending.
He suggested that Floyd’s death and the nationwide response to it is part of why he has delayed that policy rollout.
“I would have already done it had not,” he said, pausing, “had we not had the death, if George had not been held against that curb.”
Biden’s event included signs of the pandemic. Outside of the room where he spoke, two 1-gallon jugs of hand sanitizer are available for use. Inside, four rows of chairs are spaced six feet apart to adhere to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House is now heavily fortified, and President Trump’s supporters see a projection of absolute strength while critics see a wannabe dictator and a president hiding from his own citizenry.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Thursday night that about “10 to 15 percent” of people are “just not very good people,” but they account for a small minority in a country that is overwhelmingly virtuous. Biden leads President Trump 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters nationally, compared with a virtual tie between the two candidates two months ago, according to the latest Post-ABC News poll.
The pandemic has already changed how tens of millions of people will cast ballots in primaries and the general election this year, with nearly 30 states changing rules or practices. Here’s what we know about arguments against voting by mail. See what elections are coming up and which have moved.
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