Joe Biden on Wednesday dubbed Donald Trump the nation's "first" racist president. "The way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from, is absolutely sickening," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said at a virtual town hall. "No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed. They’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has." As the AP points out, "many presidents—including the nation’s first, George Washington—owned slaves." The HuffPost put it more bluntly: "He's wrong," it declared on Biden. NBC News notes Biden's campaign later issued a statement acknowledging, "There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out—especially in modern history—because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won."
In addition to the slave-owning presidents, the HuffPost points out that Andrew Jackson was responsible for forcing indigenous people off their native lands and onto the "Trail of Tears"; he also would order "harsh, even brutal punishment for enslaved people who disobeyed orders." Ronald Reagan was caught on tape calling African UN delegates "monkeys," Woodrow Wilson supported segregation and segregated several federal agencies, and Franklin D. Roosevelt had Japanese-Americans placed in internment camps. Asked about Biden's comments at a White House briefing later Wednesday, Trump said, "Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country and doing terrible things, we had the best African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, almost every group was the best for unemployment." He added, "Most importantly, when you look at criminal justice reform … I’ve done more for Black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close." (Read more Joe Biden stories.)