Flashback: Biden Compared George Floyd’s Death To MLK Jr.’s Assassination

On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, remarks President Joe Biden made about MLK and George Floyd in June 2020 made the rounds online. Biden, who was running for president at the time, said that George Floyd’s death in the custody of former Minneapolis police officers had a greater “worldwide impact” than the assassination of the civil rights icon.

“Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did,” Biden said.

Biden made the comments during an economic roundtable discussion in Philadelphia on June 11, 2020 – just weeks after Floyd was killed when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held him on the ground by kneeling on his neck area for over nine minutes.

Biden explained that what he meant when he said “worldwide impact” was the speed at which such stories could cover massive distances, in large part due to the prevalence of mobile phones and social media.

Biden went on to add that mobile phones and social media were changing the way people saw major issues — like police brutality — by giving them full and immediate access to view and then share videos like the one that showed Floyd’s death. He then compared that to the way that television had changed the way many viewed the Civil Rights movement and other issues, taking what was happening in the world and bringing it into living rooms all across the country.

“It’s just like television changed the civil rights movement for the better when they saw Bull Connor and his dogs ripping the clothes off of elderly black women going to church and fire hoses ripping the skin off of young kids,” he said. “What happened to George Floyd … now you got how many people around the country, millions of cellphones. It’s changed the way everybody’s looking at this. Look at the millions of people marching around the world.”

King’s assassination, though not publicized in the way that can only be accomplished by the immediate and global reach of social media, did spur a renewed push for action from then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Amid riots in dozens of cities following King’s death, Johnson encouraged Americans to embrace instead King’s methods of peaceful protesting, referring to the late activist as an “apostle of nonviolence.”

He also called for Congress to debate and then pass the Fair Housing Act. The FHA of 1968, which passed a short time later, banned discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin in the sale or rental of property — in addition to loans taken out for those purposes — and has long been considered a necessary follow-up to 1964’s Civil Rights Act.

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