Biden, who delivered the strident, 24-minute speech in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall with glowing red backlighting and U.S. Marines at his side, told reporters Friday he did not mean to impugn all Trump supporters as insurrectionists.
“When people voted for Donald Trump — and support him now — they weren’t voting for attacking the Capitol,” Biden said. “They weren’t voting for overruling the election. They were going for a philosophy he put forward.”
He added that he doesn’t consider just “any Trump supporter [to be] a threat to the country” and said his speech was only directed at Trump supporters who support violence or deny that he won the 2020 election fairly.
That was the most demagogic, outrageous, and divisive speech I have ever seen from an American president. Joe Biden essentially declared all those who oppose him and his agenda enemies of the republic. Truly shameful. pic.twitter.com/ZcJX2BbZlt
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) September 2, 2022
“I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, fails to condemn violence when it’s used, refuses to acknowledge an election has been won, insists upon changing the way in which the rules and we count votes, that is a threat to democracy,” he said.
In the speech, which critics, including some on the Left, have called divisive and even “sinister,” Biden took no such pains to differentiate between subsets of Trump supporters, who he identified by using the “Make America Great Again” acronym.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal,” Biden said. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”
“There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country,” Biden continued. “MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth, but in the shadow of lies. Together, we can choose a different path.”
At another point in the speech, Biden said Trump supporters do not respect the document that had been signed in the historic building behind him.
“MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution,” Biden said. “They did not believe in the rule of law. They did not recognize the will of the people. They refused to accept the results of a free election.”
The speech drew a mixed reception. Republicans and even some liberal commentators deemed it highly polarizing, though many Democrats applauded the tough talk directed at Trump supporters.
The effort to dial it back came Friday as Biden responded to a question after an event touting federal manufacturing grants.