Biden set the tone early, telling aides that his visit to Buffalo needed to be, first and foremost, about consoling those grieving loved ones but that he also wanted to denounce the racism underlining the tragedy. Some aides pushed to specifically name those national figures who had pushed “replacement theory,” including Carlson and the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. But the idea was dropped, in favor of broader admonishments.
“I call on all Americans to reject the lie. And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,” he declared in Buffalo earlier Tuesday. “We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America.”
Biden’s approach has not been universally applauded, including by people who have been supportive of the White House. Rev. Al Sharpton told POLITICO that if the administration was too nervous to call out Carlson by name, Biden should at least go after his employer.
“He could call out the network where he doesn’t elevate the host,” Sharpton said of Fox News. “We clearly should be talking about how the networks are pushing this stuff and acting like they have no responsibility. So I would certainly support him calling individual names, but the least he could do is calling the networks out.”
Civil rights leaders say that while it was important for Biden to go to Buffalo, they want to see more. On Sunday, several of those leaders had a phone meeting with officials from the Justice Department who promised to take the shooting seriously but stopped short of promising an investigation.
“You have people who really do get it. The question is what do they do? How far do they go? What tools do they have in the Department of Justice to educate people that it’s not an isolated incident,” Melanie Campbell, the president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, who was on the call, told POLITICO.
And some of the leading gun control groups in the nation also expressed their frustrations with the lack of urgency around pushing new gun laws in the wake of the shooting. A letter signed by nearly 40 groups, addressed to Biden and Democratic congressional leadership, called on them to appropriate more money for Community Violence Initiatives, hold a Senate debate and vote on legislation expanding background checks, and establish a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention .
“With voters expressing concern about public safety and rising crime, you have a moral and political responsibility to fight for the safer future you promise Americans on the campaign trail every election season,” the letter read. “Voters will hold all accountable lawmakers who fail to.”