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Biden Consoles Buffalo Shooting Mourners, Says ‘White Supremacy Will Not Have the Last Word'

Leah Millis | Reuters
  • President Joe Biden on Tuesday denounced the "poison" of white supremacy and the racist "replacement theory" that fueled this weekend's mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.
  • "In America, evil will not win. I promise you," Biden said to the assembled crowd of mourners and local officials. "White supremacy will not have the last word."
  • Biden's speech included criticism for those in government and in the media who publicize the "Great Replacement Theory" that fueled the suspected gunman.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday denounced the "poison" of white supremacy and the racist "replacement theory" that fueled this weekend's mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, where a white gunman opened fire in a supermarket in one of the city's predominantly Black communities.

"In America, evil will not win. I promise you," Biden said to the assembled crowd of mourners and local officials. "Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word."

Biden spent much of the day in western New York state, where law enforcement officials say Payton Gendron, 18, committed an act of "racially motivated violent extremism" when he shot 13 people with a semiautomatic rifle at the Tops Friendly Market on Saturday. Ten people were killed.

The president and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects to the lives lost in Saturday's tragic shooting in a visit to a memorial and met with local law enforcement and first responders.

Biden also criticized government officials and media figures who publicize the "Great Replacement Theory," a conspiracy theory that racial minorities seek to replace and disempower white people in the U.S.

Authorities are investigating Gendron's social media profiles, including a 180-page manifesto he is suspected of writing that touts the theory.

"Hate, through the media and politics and 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," Biden said.

"I call on all of you to reject the lie. I call on all Americans to reject the lie. And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit," the president added.

The comments are the closest the White House has come to date to blaming individual politicians and media commentators for their role in espousing the theory.

Though the president's speech was light on specific gun-control or crime laws he'd like to see passed, Biden noted that "there are certain things we can do."

"We can keep assault weapons off our streets. We've done it before," he said, likely referring to the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that phased out in 2004. "I did it when we passed the crime bill last time and violence went down. Shootings went down."

As a presidential candidate in 2020, Biden promised to curb racism across the country. He often contrasted himself to former President Donald Trump, who at first failed to condemn a lethal white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects to the 10 people killed in a mass shooting by a gunman authorities say was motivated by racism, at the TOPS Friendly Markets memorial site in Buffalo, NY, U.S. May 17, 2022. 
Leah Millis | Reuters
U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pay their respects to the 10 people killed in a mass shooting by a gunman authorities say was motivated by racism, at the TOPS Friendly Markets memorial site in Buffalo, NY, U.S. May 17, 2022. 

In August 2020, months before his victory, Biden said the bigotry of the Charlottesville rally convinced him to challenge Trump.

"It was a wake-up call for us as a country. And, for me, a call to action," Biden said at the time. "At that moment, I knew I'd have to run" for president.

But Tuesday's trip to Buffalo will again highlight the steep challenges facing Biden and other Democrats who say gun control measures are critical to reduce racial violence.

The Biden administration has made little progress in quashing the rise of white supremist groups or gun deaths. Scores of Republicans lawmakers have for years thwarted efforts to advance gun control legislation in the aftermaths of dozens of shootings.

The president has asked Congress to compel new background checks for firearm buyers, bar high-capacity magazines and outlaw military-style assault weapons for civilian use.

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