In October 2020, with just four weeks to go until Election Day, the reelection campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump posted a short video clip on Twitter saying it showed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden calling Trump supporters the “dregs of society.”
The tweet, posted on Oct. 6 by @TrumpWarRoom, contained the following text: “Joe Biden called Trump supporters the ‘dregs of society.’ The idea that Biden is a unifier is a joke.” In the accompanying eight-second clip, Biden says:
“They’re a small percentage of the American people. Virulent people. Some of them the dregs of society.”
Joe Biden called Trump supporters the “dregs of society.”
The idea that Biden is a unifier is a joke. pic.twitter.com/k4gSzNaiOR
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) October 6, 2020
However, the Trump campaign’s presentation of Biden’s remarks was deeply misleading. Viewed in proper context, it’s clear that the former U.S. vice president was not referring to Trump supporters as a whole, but rather what he called “the forces of intolerance” throughout the world and in the United States, in particular the Ku Klux Klan and the “alt-right.”
In the 2016 election, the Trump campaign capitalized on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s infamous claim that “half” of Trump’s supporters constituted a “basket of deplorables.” The false attack on Biden — both in September 2018, when he made the remarks, and again in 2020 — appeared to be an attempt to create a similar narrative around Biden, who has pitched himself to voters as a moderate and unifying candidate.
The short clip posted by the Trump campaign was taken from a much longer speech that Biden gave on Sept. 15, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Biden was speaking at an annual dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights non-profit.
In order to provide the full context for Biden’s “dregs of society” remark, the following is a transcript of the relevant section of his speech, and the moments leading up to it, with especially relevant remarks highlighted in bold. The section of the speech in question can be watched in full below:
… Thanks to you, our children, my grandchildren will grow up in a world that’s far more just, open-minded and humane. But our work is not yet done, by any stretch of the imagination. The stakes are much too high. As I said, we’re faced with an administration, and some of its most ardent right-wing supporters from the Ku Klux Klan — the head of the Ku Klux Klan has endorsed [Trump] — and the alt-right, who are trying to undo all the progress you have made, and the little that Barack [Obama] and I have made with you.
Today, we still don’t have a federal law that explicitly protects LGBTQ [people] from being fired or evicted or denied service at a restaurant. In 28 states, you can still be fired for being gay. In 30 states, you can be