President Joe Biden held a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 19, during which he reiterated his claim to have Black America’s back – particularly in the area of voting rights – despite being unable to get critical voting rights legislation passed.
At one point during the conference, NBCTV journalist Kristen Welker relayed the frustration she’d heard from Black voters in South Carolina about their perception that Biden has not kept his promises to the Black community and the last-minute voting rights push is a PR tactic.
“I spoke to a number of Black voters who fought to get you elected and now they feel as though you are not fighting hard enough for them and their priorities,” Welker said to Biden. “They told me they see this push on voting rights more as a last-minute PR push than it is a legitimate effort to get legislation passed. So what do you say to these Black voters who say that you do not have their backs as you promised on the campaign trail?”
“I’ve had their back. I’ve had their back my entire career. I’ve never not had their back and I started on the voting rights issue long, long ago. That’s what got me involved in politics in the first place,” Biden responded.
The 46th commander-in-chief went on to acknowledge that he thought “part of the problem” was the timing of his push on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act – which he said was in large part due to factors beyond his control. “There’s significant disagreement in every community on whether or not the timing of assertions made by people has been in the most timely way,” Biden said.
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“I’m sure there are those who are saying ‘Why didn’t Biden push John Lewis bill as hard as he pushed it the last month? Why didn’t he push it 6 months ago as hard as he did now?” Biden continued, adding that many of his priorities were “dictated by events that are happening in countries around the world.”
Biden also said he had not been in the Black community as much as he could have so they could gauge the sincerity of his intentions in having their back.
“I have not been out in the community nearly enough. I’ve been here an awful lot,” Biden said from the White House. “I find myself in the situation where I don’t get a chance to look people in the eye, because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington, to be able to go out and do the things that I’ve always been able to do pretty well. Connect with people. Let them take a measure of my sincerity. Let them take a measure of who I am.”
However, many Black Americans were not convinced and equated Biden’s words to empty pandering.
“Biden said the reason he hasn’t delivered for black voters is ‘he needs more time & he hasn’t had time to meet people in the community & look at them eye to eye,’” political pundit Tezlyn Figaro tweeted. “In other words, he hasn’t had time to go sell Black ppl more dreams. I’m sure the ‘give him more time’ tribe love this.”
“@POTUS just gonna lie on TV like this! You haven’t had Black Voters back your whole entire political career,” @VLynNette2U tweeted. “Just stop it! Like you haven’t kept a single campaign promise that will help Black People!”
“Biden has such disdain for Black people, he didnt even bother to come up with a good lie when asked why he hasn’t done anything for Black voters,” activist and filmmaker Tariq Nasheed wrote.
“Biden on Black Voters: I’ve had their back. I’ve had their back my entire career. It will be a rude a*s awakening come mid terms. We’re tired of the lies and gaslighting,” @jenniferdlaws wrote.
Yall hear this!? Black SOUTH CAROLINIANS are not being fooled and are demanding actual POLICIES for our votes: #reparations, heirs property reform, land justice, transportation, and more,” wrote Gregg “Marcel” Dixon, a South Carolina resident who is running against Rep. Jim Clyburn in the upcoming election. “It is coming yall!”
“Last year young blacks got sick and tired of the police killing unarmed blacks And some of them took to the street and started rioting,” @malcolshabazz6 tweeted. “Democrat politicians told them that’s not the way to handle things Democrats said vote for us and we will pass a police reform bill THEY LIED.”
However, some people noted the difference between how Biden responded to reporters’ difficult questions, particularly about Black America – in comparison to his predecessor.
“Pres Biden, in the longest news conference in presidential history, made news, pushed back on critics, called out lies, took responsibility for mistakes he believes he made, expressed surprise at GOP, talked foreign policy and didn’t lash out on reporters. Quite the change,” PBS journalist Yamiche Alcindor tweeted.
“It so nice to have a competent adult in our White House,” @ateacher97 agreed.
Biden’s conference came just days after hopes of passing voting-rights legislation were dashed as moderate Democrat Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema joined all 50 Republican senators in refusing to abolish the filibuster so the legislation could pass with a simple majority.
Even Biden’s longtime ally, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, said the situation was “bleak.”
“There are a lot of base voters not happy,” Clyburn told Bloomberg in a phone interview. “So if you look at the people who are unhappy, the Republicans are never going to be happy, independents who, you know, pick and choose when to be happy, and Black people who need Build Back Better and these voting bills in order to be happy. That’s going to have a very low approval rating.”