Washington — President Biden on Tuesday issued a forceful condemnation of the “hateful and perverse ideology” that he warned has seeped into the mainstream, calling the white supremacist views espoused by the suspected gunman whoand wounded three more in a racially motivated massacre in Buffalo, New York, a “poison.”
In remarks to elected officials, first responders and the victims’ families, Mr. Biden said the nation must not remain silent in the face of racist conspiracy theories, as doing so is “complicity.”
“What happened here is simple and straightforward: terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism,” Mr. Biden said. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group. The hate that through the media and politics, the internet, has radicalized angry, alienated, lost and isolated individuals into falsely believing that they will be ‘replaced’ — that’s the word, replaced — by the other, by people who don’t look like them and who are therefore, in the perverse ideology that they possess and being fed, lesser beings.”
The president, joined on stage by first lady Dr. Jill Biden, called on Americans to “reject the lie.”
“I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,” he said.
Mr. Biden recalled chants of “you will not replace us” from white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and lamented that “evil” has come to “too many places” across the nation.
“White supremacy is a poison. It’s a poison, it really is, running through our body politic,” he said. “And it’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more, no more. We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. None.”
Mr. Biden began his remarks honoring each of the victims of the massacre, telling the audience that he and the first lady visited the community “to stand with you, and to the families, we have come to grieve with you.”
“It speaks to the bigger story of who we are as Americans, a great nation, because we’re good people,” Mr. Biden said. “Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation’s soul. In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail, and white supremacy will not have the last word.”
Joined on the trip to Buffalo by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democratic senators from New York, the president and first lady visited a memorial outside the Tops grocery store where the shooting occurred, laying a bouquet of flowers and paying respects to the victims. They also met privately with the families of the shooting before Mr. Biden spoke to the audience of elected officials and community leaders.
Police believe 18-year-old Payton Gendron drove more than 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York, to the Tops Family Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo with the intent of killing as many African American people as he could. Wearing military-style camouflage and protective gear, and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, officials say he killed 10 people in the attack Saturday and wounded three more. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black.
The suspected shooter is believed to have written and posted a lengthy hate-filled screed online, in which he espoused white supremacist views and referenced the racist so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which says nonwhite people are “replacing” the White population and diminishing their influence in a plot led by powerful elites.
Police said the alleged gunmanin early March and visited it the day before the rampage.
Democrats have said the racially motivated shooting highlighted how extremist views have migrated into the mainstream, which Schumer attributed to Fox News and host Tucker Carlson.
“Every single media pundit, every single elected politician — and indeed every single voice of influence in this country — should band together to stomp views like replacement theory out of existence,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor on Monday. “These views should have no place in American society and certainly no place in the segments of our most-watched news channels.”
The New York Democrat on Tuesday sent a letter to top executives at Fox News, including chairman Rupert Murdoch, urging them to “to immediately cease the reckless amplification of the so-called ‘Great Replacement’ theory on your network’s broadcasts.”
“For years, these types of beliefs have existed at the fringes of American life,” Schumer wrote. “However, this pernicious theory, which has no basis in fact, has been injected into the mainstream thanks in large part to a dangerous level of amplification by your network and its anchors.”
GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyomingon Monday, saying in a tweet it has “enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism.”
“History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them,” she said.
In addition to highlighting the racist motivations behind the attack, Mr. Biden also advocated for more stringent gun laws, including an assault weapons ban, and said the nation can address the “relentless exploitation” of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism.
“We just need to have the courage to do that, to stand up,” he said.
It’s unlikely, though, that gun control legislation will clear the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats. Two House-passed bills that expand background checks have stalled in the Senate, and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told reporters that while members would like to pass “basic” measures Republicans agree with, Democrats “can’t get any support” from GOP senators.