Biden delivers remarks at site of white supremacist murders, calls out 'poison' of white supremacy

ByGabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey and Alexandra Hutzler ABCNews logo
Monday, January 8, 2024
With Iowa caucuses 1 week away, Trump is the clear frontrunner
One week ahead of Iowa's kick-off caucuses, former President Donald Trump's standing among the GOP faithful is hardly in doubt.

President Joe Biden on Monday spoke in Charleston, South Carolina, Monday to give campaign remarks at Mother Emanuel Church, where nine Black congregants were killed in a white supremacist attack in 2015, to underscore what he sees at the stakes of the 2024 election.

He called out what he called the "poison" of white supremacy that he said has "no place in America."

President Joe Biden sits with Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., before delivering remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.
President Joe Biden sits with Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., before delivering remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.
(AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Donald Trump has said undocumented immigrants crossing into the U.S. are "poisoning the blood of our country."

Earlier, Biden's campaign said his speech will include a warning that "MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans, led by Trump, are running on a hate-fueled, dangerous agenda."

Biden, a campaign official said, "will emphasize that it is the job of a president to root out hate and extremism and to bring the nation together -- turning horror and tragedy into action and progress" and "remind the American people that the same hate that plagued the Mother Emanuel Church years ago hasn't gone away," but "it is incumbent on our elected officials to do their part in rooting out hate, extremism, and division in our country."

Biden was set to meet with survivors and families of those killed in the mass shooting by white supremacist Dylann Roof, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Clergy, interfaith leaders and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress, will also be in attendance.

Clyburn's endorsement in Feb. 2020 during a crowded Democratic primary was seen as instrumental in shoring up the Black vote in South Carolina which led Biden to clinch the primary and ultimately propelled him to the presidency.

He's said few places embody what's at stake in 2024 as Mother Emanuel AME Church.

"This year's election will determine the fate of American democracy, our freedoms, and whether this country will stand up against hate and vitriol embodied by Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans," Clyburn said in a statement via the campaign. "Few places embody these stakes like Mother Emanuel AME - a church that has witnessed the horrors of hate-fueled political violence and a church that has spoken to the conscience of this nation and shown us the path forward after moments of division and despair."

"I have always said that South Carolina picks presidents and I know President Biden and Vice President Harris agree," he added.

Biden was briefly interrupted by protesters chanting 'cease-fire now!,' apparently referring to Israel's war in Gaza - who were then shortly after drowned out by chants of "Four more years!"

Monday's remarks comes as Biden looks to shore up support among Black voters, a constituency key to his election four years ago but whose approval of him has waned since he's taken office.

MORE | Biden marks Jan. 6 anniversary by calling Trump a threat to democracy and freedom

President Joe Biden delivered a campaign speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania on the eve of the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He started his presidency with an 86% average approval rating among Black Americans, according to FiveThirtyEight, higher than any other racial group, but that number dropped to 60% by early last year, the lowest it's been for Biden among Black Americans since he assumed office.

South Carolina was pivotal to Biden's 2020 win, clinching the state's Democratic primary by nearly 30 points -- a turning point for his campaign following losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The trip -- his first this year to an early voting state -- comes as some Democrats, like Clyburn, express concerns not only with Biden's appeal to Black voters and the party's more progressive wing but with how he'll break through the so-called "MAGA wall."

"I'm not worried. I'm very concerned," Clyburn said on CNN' "State of the Union" Sunday, asked if he was worried about Black voters turning out to the polls.

"I have no problem with the Biden administration and what it has done. My problem is we have not been able to break through that MAGA wall, in order to get to people exactly what this person has done," he said, ticking through achievements he thinks Biden should hit harder, such as how he's lowered the cost of prescription drug and appointed more Black women to the Court of Appeals than any other president.

The Democratic National Committee reorganized its primary calendar this year to lead with South Carolina with the primary election just 26 days away, on Feb. 3.

Biden's appearance in Charleston comes on the heels of his first major 2024 campaign event, a speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, last Friday to mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

There, the president cast Trump as a danger to democracy,

"The choice is clear. Donald Trump's campaign is about him, not America, not you. Donald Trump's campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He's willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power," Biden said. "Our campaign is different... Our campaign is about preserving and strengthening our American democracy."

The Biden-Harris campaign told ABC News it raised more than $1 million online in the 24 hours following Biden's democracy and freedom-focused message in the battleground state.

"In election after election, democracy and freedom are mobilizing issues for the American people," digital director Rob Flaherty said in a statement on Monday. "In 2024, that will be no different, and we are encouraged by the strong grassroots enthusiasm we are seeing around the President's core campaign message."

Trump, meanwhile, said recently on Truth Social, in what's become a stump line for his outreach to Black voters, "I have done more for Black people than any other President (Lincoln?)," citing funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and opportunity zones.