Fact check: Trump falsely claims Biden has refused to condemn Philadelphia violence

President Donald Trump continues to make false accusations about opponent Joe Biden’s position on criminal justice issues.

At a campaign rally on Thursday in Tampa, Florida, Trump claimed that the former vice president has refused to condemn the Philadelphia violence that has followed the Monday death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who was shot and killed by police while holding a knife on a city street. Trump said at the rally that Biden is not only supportive of Philadelphia rioters but also that Biden got confused when he was asked about the subject.

“Look what he’s doing in Philadelphia. Look what — what’s happening. Those are people that he’s supporting. He couldn’t even come out against them yesterday,” Trump said. “They asked him a question. He said, ‘Uh, what’s Philadelphia? Where is it? Where is it?’ He didn’t know what state it was in.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim is entirely false. Biden has condemned the violence in Philadelphia — both in a written statement Tuesday he issued with running mate Sen. Kamala Harris and in on-camera comments to journalists on Wednesday. Biden, who was born in Pennsylvania, did not respond to any question on the subject by expressing confusion about the location of Philadelphia.

In their statement, Biden and Harris said their hearts were broken over the death of Wallace, that Wallace’s life “was a Black life that mattered” and that “we cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death.” They added, though: “At the same time, no amount of anger at the very real injustices in our society excuses violence. Attacking police officers and vandalizing small businesses, which are already struggling during a pandemic, does not bend the moral arc of the universe closer to justice. It hurts our fellow citizens. Looting is not a protest, it is a crime.”

Biden told reporters after voting in Delaware on Wednesday that although protesting is totally legitimate and reasonable, “there is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever.” He continued by citing Wallace’s father’s opposition to the violence, saying, “As the victim’s father said, ‘Do not do this. It’s not what my son — you’re not helping. You’re hurting. You’re not helping my son.’ “

Trump’s accusation was the latest in a series. For months, he has falsely insisted that Biden has not denounced rioting and looting that the former vice president has actually denounced.

Biden delivered another general condemnation in a Tuesday speech in Atlanta — endorsing peaceful Black Lives Matter protests but also saying, “Protesting, though, is not burning and looting. Violence can never be a tactic or tolerated, and it won’t.”

Trump’s false debate story

At the same Thursday rally in Tampa, Trump repeated a story he has told at other October events. He claimed that when he challenged Biden at their first presidential debate to say the words “law and order,” Biden simply refused — and was protected by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News.

Trump’s rendition of the debate exchange went like this: “And then I said, ‘Joe, say the words law and order.’ ‘No.’ ‘Say the words law and order, Joe! Say ’em.’ And then Chris Wallace: ‘He doesn’t have to do that.’ ‘Oh, OK, Chris, thanks.'”

Facts First: Trump’s description of the debate exchange was false. Biden did say the words “law and order,” and Wallace did not interject to try to shield Biden from having to answer Trump’s question.

Here’s what happened. When Trump asked Biden if he is “in favor of law and order,” Biden initially said, “I am in favor of law, you following it, and …” It sounded like he may have added “a little bit of order,” but it was hard to hear because Trump interrupted to ask Biden again if he is in favor of law and order.

In response to Trump’s second try at the question, Biden said, “Yes. … Everybody’s in favor of law and order.” He then added, “Law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly.”

Trump’s suggestion that Wallace jumped in to protect Biden is also fictional. Wallace actually interjected to tell Trump to let Biden answer the question, not to say the former vice president did not have to answer.

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