By CHRIS MEGERIAN and ZEKE MILLER
BUFFALO (AP) — President Joe Biden wept with grieving families in Buffalo on Tuesday, then urged the nation to reject what he angrily called a white supremacist poison. He said the nation must “reject the lie” of the racist “replacement theory” espoused by the gunman who killed 10 black people in Buffalo.
Addressing victims’ families, local officials and first responders, Biden said America’s diversity was his strength and warned the nation must not be twisted by a “hateful minority”.
“The American experiment in democracy is in jeopardy like it was not in my lifetime,” Biden said. “He is in danger at this hour. Hatred and fear of being given too much oxygen by those who claim to love America but don’t understand America.
He said, “In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail, white supremacy will not have the last word.
Biden’s emotional remarks came after he and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects at an improvised memorial of flowers, candles and condolence messages outside the Tops supermarket, where a young man armed with a gun on Saturday assault targeted black people in the deadliest racist attack. in the United States since Biden took office.
“Jill and I came to support you, and to the families, we came to grieve with you,” Biden said.
He added: “Now is the time for people of all races, from all walks of life, to speak out in the majority…and reject white supremacy.”
Replacement theory is a racist ideology, which has moved from white nationalist circles into the mainstream, which alleges that white people and their influence are intentionally “replaced” by people of color through immigration and higher birth rates .
In Buffalo, the president was once again confronting the forces of hate he often says called him back to seek the White House.
“It is important for him to come forward for the families and the community and to express his condolences,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “But we are more concerned about preventing this from happening again in the future.”
It’s unclear how Biden will try to do that. Proposals for new gun restrictions have been routinely blocked by Republicans, and the racist rhetoric adopted on the fringes of national politics has only intensified.
Asked about gun legislation, Biden said at the airport, “It’s going to be very difficult. …I’m not going to give up trying.
Biden’s condemnation of white supremacy is a message he’s delivered repeatedly since becoming the first president to specifically address it in an inaugural speech, calling it “domestic terrorism that we must confront.” . However, such beliefs remain an entrenched threat at a time when his administration has focused on tackling the pandemic, inflation and war in Ukraine.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Biden paid tribute to each of the 10 people who lost their lives, describing them as model citizens, beacons of their community and deeply attached to family.
Three other people were injured. Almost all of the victims were black, including all of those who died.
The shooter’s hateful writings echoed those of white supremacists who marched with torches in 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., a scene that Biden says inspired his decision to run against President Donald Trump in 2020 and which pushed him to join what he calls the “battle for America’s soul.”
In Buffalo, Payton Gendron, 18, was arrested at the supermarket and charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty. His lawyers declined to comment on Tuesday.
Prior to the shooting, Gendron reportedly posted an overflowing screed of racism and anti-Semitism online. The author of the document described himself as a supporter of Dylann Roof, who killed nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, and Brenton Tarrant, who targeted mosques in New Zealand in 2019.
Investigators are studying the link between Gendron and what is called the “great replacement” theory.
“I condemn those who spread lies for power, political gain and profit,” Biden said, pausing before naming those he believes are responsible for perpetuating it.
Claims are often intertwined with anti-Semitism, with Jews being identified as the culprits. At the 2017 “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.”
“These actions that we’ve seen, these hateful attacks, represent the views of a hateful minority,” Biden said.
“We must refuse to live in a country where black people who do their weekly shopping can be slaughtered by weapons of war deployed in a racist cause,” he said. “We must refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are conditioned for power and profit.”
In the years following Charlottesville, replacement theory shifted from the online fringe to mainstream right-wing politics. According to a December poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Research in Public Affairs.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is a TV personality who accuses Democrats of orchestrating mass migration to consolidate power.
“The country is being stolen from American citizens,” he said in August last year. He repeated this theme a month later, saying that “this policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of old Americans with more obedient people from distant lands”.
Carlson’s show regularly receives the highest ratings on cable news, and he responded to the furor Monday night by accusing the Liberals of trying to silence their opponents.
“So because a mentally ill teenager murdered foreigners, you can’t be allowed to voice your political beliefs out loud,” he said.
His comment reflects how this conspiratorial view of immigration has spread through the Republican Party ahead of this year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of Congress.
Facebook ads posted last year by Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y.’s campaign committee said Democrats want a “PERMANENT VICTORY INSURGENCY” by granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. The plan would “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”
Alex DeGrasse, senior adviser to Stefanik’s campaign, said Monday that she “has never taken a racist position or made a racist statement.” He criticized the “sickening and false reports” on his advertisements.
Stefanik is the third House Republican caucus leader, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who angered the party with her denunciations of Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Cheney, in a tweet on Monday, said caucus leadership “enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends up much worse.
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.