Joe Biden at a virtual event last month. Photo: via Getty Images

Before former Vice President Joe Biden began his virtual event with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday, he addressed the recent officer-involved death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

What they're saying: Biden referenced the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a New York police officer used an illegal chokehold on him during an arrest.

  • "Watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words as Eric Garner more than five years ago — “I can’t breathe” — is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but part of an ingrained systemic cycle that exists in this country," Biden said.
  • "It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity."

The backdrop: Floyd was being arrested for alleged forgery and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to a police press conference Monday night. A Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd's neck for several minutes, ignoring protests that he couldn't breathe

  • The incident was caught on video by a bystander. Several times throughout the video, Floyd is heard saying: "I can't breathe."
  • Police said Floyd died "a short time later" after arriving at the hospital.
  • Four officers involved in the incident were fired on Tuesday.

"George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine, it mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. It at least should have," Biden said, adding that the incident "sends a very clear message to the black community and black lives that are under threat every day."

  • Biden said the Minneapolis police officer involved needs to be "held more fully accountable," and he suggested the Justice Department conduct a separate and independent civil rights investigation on top of the FBI probe announced Tuesday.

Last week, Biden was criticized — and later apologized — for making racially insensitive comments on "The Breakfast Club" radio show with Charlamagne Tha God.

  • Biden told the host "you ain't black" if "you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump."
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden is largely credited with reviving his campaign, weighed in during an interview with "The View" Tuesday, saying he "cringed" but that Biden "is not a perfect person, none of us are."

The bottom line: Biden concluded his remarks on the killing of Floyd, "I don’t think we can move forward unless we take aggressive action to rip out the insidious race-based inequalities that corrupt almost every part of our society."

Go deeper

Biden says he spoke with Jacob Blake by phone for 15 minutes

Former VP Joe Biden arriving in Wisconsin. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Image

Joe Biden spoke with Jacob Blake by phone on Thursday for 15 minutes during a private meeting with Blake's family in Wisconsin.

Driving the news: This was Biden's third time out on the campaign trail this week — the former VP has largely stuck to virtual events until now. He spent most of his time in Wisconsin listening to residents about their concerns and hopes for the way forward as the community reels from Blake's shooting.

The top Republicans who aren't voting for Trump in 2020

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said last week that he cannot support President Trump's re-election.

Why it matters: Hogan, a moderate governor in a blue state, joins other prominent Republicans who have publicly said they will either not vote for Trump's re-election this November or will back Biden.

Updated Sep 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Barr says "epidemic" of police brutality against Black people is "false narrative"

Attorney General Bill Barr denied Wednesday that there are "two justice systems" for Black and white people in the U.S., claiming in a wide-ranging interview on CNN that the idea that there is an "epidemic" of police shooting unarmed Black men is "simply a false narrative."

The big picture: Barr acknowledged that there is a "widespread phenomenon" of Black men being treated with "extra suspicion" and "maybe not being given the benefit of the doubt" by police officers, but he denied that this is the product of "systemic racism." A number of other Trump Cabinet officials and the president himself have denied that there is systemic racism in policing.

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