President Joe Biden warned Tuesday that failing to confront the white supremacist ideology that led to the racially motivated massacre at a Buffalo, New York supermarket last week could have dire consequences for the future of American democracy.
“Evil won’t win, I promise you,” Biden told a crowd of local and state officials and victims’ families at a community center in Buffalo.
He said the gunman who had taken 10 lives four days earlier had done so “in the name of a hateful and perverse ideology rooted in fear and racism.” “In America, hate will not prevail and white supremacy will not have the last word.”
Biden was in Buffalo to honor the victims of Saturday’s massacre, which was allegedly carried out by a self-proclaimed white supremacist who claimed to have been radicalized on internet message boards.
It was the latest in a series of murders committed by supporters of the “replacement theory,” which argues that there is a conspiracy in which Democratic elites are actively trying to replace white Americans with foreigners in the hope of retaining political power for themselves.
Such ideas, once confined to the periphery, are now the mainstays of right-wing media discourse and are often discussed on high-profile media outlets such as Fox News and featured in campaign ads by mainstream Republicans.
Biden called such rhetoric “evil” and said it manifested itself in the alleged gunman, who “slaughtered innocent people in the name of a hateful and perverted ideology rooted in fear and racism.”
“What happened here is simple, clear: terrorism. Terrorism, domestic terrorism, violence committed in the service of hatred and the cruel thirst for power that makes one group of people inferior to every other group,” he said. “A hatred that, through the media, politics and the internet, has radicalized angry, lost and isolated individuals so that they mistakenly believe that they will be replaced by other people who are not like them and who therefore find themselves in a perverted ideology… lesser beings”.
Biden said he is calling on “all Americans” to reject “the lie” of the “replacement theory” and condemn “those who spread the lie for power or political gain.”
“We must say as clearly and forcefully as possible that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America,” he said, adding that such “poison” and “violence” should not become “the story of our time.” †
Biden also called on Congress to address the ready availability of military-style rifles, such as the alleged gunman’s, and to address what he described as “the relentless exploitation of the Internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism.”
“We just have to have the courage to do that, to stand up,” he said, adding that the “American experiment in democracy” was in more danger than it has ever been in its life because “hate and fear are also given much oxygen by those who pretend to love America but don’t understand America.”
The president’s comments came just hours after he paid his respects at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the shooting.
Mr. Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived at the Tops Market where the shooting happened just after 10 a.m. ET Tuesday after a short flight aboard Air Force One, and after emerging from their vehicle, they walked hand-in-hand toward a tree covered in flowers and other tributes to the victims in the four days since the attack.
After Mrs. Biden placed a bouquet of white flowers at the base of the tree, both the president and first lady appeared to pray for a moment, with Mr. Biden crossing himself before standing with his hand on his heart.
Mr Biden and Ms Biden then met with the families of those who lost their lives in the shooting, which the alleged gunman allegedly carried out with the aim of killing as many black Americans as possible.