Former Vice President Joe Biden, who was quick to connect Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, stopped short of calling the President a white supremacist outright at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday.
“Why are you so hooked on that? You just want me to say the words so I sound like everybody else,” Biden told a reporter. “I’m not everybody else – I’m Joe Biden. I’ve always been who I am. I’m staying the way I am. He is encouraging white supremacists – you can determine what that means.”
He continued: “It’s like everybody wants everybody to call someone a liar. When you say, ‘I don’t call people liars, I say they don’t tell the truth,’ you want to hear me say liar so you can put it out and say, ‘Biden called someone a liar.’ That’s not who I am. You’ve got the wrong guy.”
Earlier in the day, when asked the same question about Trump and white supremacy, Biden replied, “I believe everything the President has said and done encourages white supremacy. And I’m not sure there is much of a distinction … Whether he is or is not a white supremacist, he encourages, everything he does speaks to them. He’s afraid to take them on.”
Biden’s comments at the fair come one day after the former vice president made his sharpest attacks against Trump to date, arguing that he has “fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation” and “aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation.”
As Biden continues to walk the line of calling out the President’s actions without explicitly saying Trump is a white supremacist, other 2020 Democratic hopefuls have taken a more direct approach.
On Wednesday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said “yes” when asked whether Trump was a white supremacist by The New York Times.
She reiterated that sentiment Thursday.
“He’s a man who cozies up to the white supremacists,” Warren told reporters at a campaign stop in Harlan, Iowa. “He’s done the wink and a nod, and he can’t have it both ways. He can’t keep trying to stir this up, give aid and comfort, be embraced by the white supremacists, and then say, ‘Oh, but not me.’ No, he’s responsible, he’s the President of the United States.
Asked by CNN to elaborate on what led her to label the President as such, Warren told reporters, “It’s just one piece of evidence after another. And at some point, when he has been so embraced by the white supremacist and has not distanced himself.”
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was one of the first to call the President a white supremacist. On Monday, she told CNN’s John Berman that Trump “is not only egging on white supremacy and white nationalism, but he is one himself.”
Other 2020 Democrats have called the President a white nationalist.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who canceled campaign events to return to his hometown of El Paso after news of last week’s mass shooting there broke, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Yes, I do,” when asked whether he believes the President is a white nationalist.
“The things that he has said, both as a candidate and then as the President of the United States, this cannot be open for debate,” O’Rourke added.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he agreed with O’Rourke’s characterization of Trump when he also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I do,” Sanders said when asked to whether he believed Trump was a white nationalist or a white supremacist. “And it gives me no pleasure to say this, but I think all of the evidence out there suggests that we have a president who is a racist, who is a xenophobe, who appeals and is trying to appeal to white nationalism. And, you know, it breaks my heart to have to say that this is the person we have who is President of the United States.”
But California Sen. Kamala Harris seemed to agree with Biden’s stance on Thursday. When asked by CNN’s Kyung Lah if she agreed with Biden’s comments alleging the lack of distinction in Trump’s encouragement of white supremacy, Harris replied, “Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right.”
“The sad thing about this is, it’s no longer really a debatable point,” she added. “There is just a long list of statements and tweets and behaviors from this President that make it very clear that he possesses hate and that he is divisive and that he is a racist.”
When asked whether Trump was a white supremacist, Harris replied, “I think you should ask him that question. I’d be interested to see what his answer is.”
CNN’s Daniella Diaz and Caroline Kelly contributed to this story.