Joe Biden did not mince words on Tuesday evening.
“He’s the racist,” the former vice president shot at President Donald Trump during the first of three presidential debates.
The exchange came during a discussion of the Trump administration’s crackdown on federal agencies that mandate racial sensitivity training for their employees. “I ended it because it’s racist,” Trump said of his administration’s move. “They were teaching people to hate our country. I will not allow that.”
The exchange marked the first discussion at the debate about race in America and ongoing protests of police violence around the country. Biden’s racism charge came amid a defense of efforts to imbue federal agencies with a greater awareness of those issues.
“People have to be made aware of what people feel like, what insults them, what is demeaning to them. It’s important that people know,” Biden said.
The Trump administration has recently acted on that directive and threatened to penalize federal agencies that mandate racial sensitivity training programs with curricula that the White House has dubbed “critical race theory.” And as he has publicly said in recent weeks, Trump, during the debate, described the racial sensitivity courses at issue as inherently racist themselves.
“I ended it because it’s racist,” Trump said. “A lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were insane. It was a radical revolution that was taking place. In our military. In our schools. All over the place.”
At the debate, Biden sought to tie the effort to other discriminatory episodes in American history.
“It’s like how this guy and his friends looked down on so many people,” Biden said. “They look down their nose on people like Irish catholics and like me. And people who don’t have money. And people who are of a different faith. On people who are a different color.”