On Tuesday, Joe Biden took President Trump to task for describing the impeachment inquiry against him as a lynching. Also on Tuesday: Biden apologized for doing essentially the same thing in 1998. The series of events:
- First came Biden's tweet, in which he chided the president: "Impeachment is not 'lynching,' it is part of our Constitution. Our country has a dark, shameful history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent. It's despicable."
- But then an October 1998 clip of Biden being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the looming impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton surfaced. Biden said, "Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense."
- USA Today reports Biden took to Twitter nine hours after his original tweet with an apology—and an attempt to differentiate himself from Trump.
- Biden tweeted a link to the CNN clip along with this: "This wasn't the right word to use and I'm sorry about that. Trump on the other hand chose his words deliberately today in his use of the word lynching and continues to stoke racial divides in this country daily."
- The Washington Post reports Biden wasn't alone two decades ago: It found at least five House Democrats who used the terms "lynching," "lynch mob," or "lynch mob mentality" when discussing Clinton at the time.
- Rep. Gregory Meeks was one of them, saying in 1998, "What we are doing here is not a prosecution, it is a persecution and indeed it is a political lynching." He now describes the distinction he sees to the Post: "Context matters. There is a difference when that word is used by someone of my experience and perspective, whose relatives were the targets of lynch mobs, compared to a president ... who called African nations s---holes and urban cities infested. Those he called 'very fine people' in Charlottesville were the kind of people who lynched those who looked like me. So, yes—there are certain words I am more at liberty to invoke than Donald J. Trump."
- So why was there no "massive outcry" over the use of the word in 1998? At the Washington Post, Amber Phillips shares a few theories: that we're more culturally aware now, that social media allowed Trump's words to spread more quickly, and that it matters more when it's a (white) president saying it. Her leading theory: "The president no longer gets the benefit of the doubt that he is innocently using offensive language. He has a history of making racially inflammatory and even outright racist statements."
- Instapundit isn't swayed: "Yes, all the people who spent the last four years calling Trump a Nazi are suddenly getting the vapors over this 'unprecedented' violation of civility."
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