U.S. President Joe Biden said “hate can have no safe harbor in America,” after meeting with Asian American leaders to discuss the killings of six Asian American women and two others near Atlanta this week.
“There are simply some core values and beliefs that should bring us together in America. One of them is standing against hate,” Biden said during remarks at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia,
Biden traveled to the southeastern state of Georgia Friday along with Vice President Kamala Harris to address the shootings and other incidents in which people of Asian descent in the U.S. have been the targets of apparent hate crimes.
Georgia officials have not yet labeled the shootings, which struck massage parlors, as hate crimes because the suspect said the shootings were a result of his sexual issues.
“Whatever the motivation, we know this: too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets worrying,” Biden said.
He said it was “heart wrenching to listen to” Asian American community leaders discuss living in fear of violence during their meeting Friday, which was also attended by Harris.
Harris, who is Black and of South Asian descent, said following the meeting, “Racism is real in America. And it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.”
Biden said that in addition to standing up to hate, another topic that should bring all Americans together is a belief in science. He noted that the country has reached his goal of giving Americans 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office.
The president warned Americans that the pandemic could still get worse because of new variants of the coronavirus but said the country would beat the virus through solutions offered by science.
Earlier Friday, the president and the vice president met officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive an update on the U.S. handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden told CDC staff that they were the soldiers and the Marines in what he described as a war against the pandemic.
“What you’re doing really, really matters,” he said, noting that CDC workers are not just saving lives but also changing the mindset of the country.
“This is the United States of America. There is nothing we cannot do when we do it together,” he said.
Harris said the CDC staff is “a model for the rest of the world.”
Biden and Harris originally planned to participate in a “Help Is Here” rally to promote the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, however the rally was postponed in the wake of the shootings that killed eight people, six of Asian descent.
While in Georgia, Biden was able to meet with former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whose organizing is widely viewed as being responsible for the Democratic presidential win in Georgia in November, the first Democratic presidential victory in the southern state since 1992.
Before leaving the White House for Georgia, Biden issued a statement urging Congress to approve legislation related to the coronavirus and hate crimes.
“I urge Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes exacerbated during the pandemic, support state and local governments to improve hate crimes reporting and ensure that hate crimes information is more accessible to Asian-American communities,” Biden said in the statement.
As he climbed the stairs to board Air Force One for the flight to Georgia, Biden stumbled several times before regaining balance and continuing to make his way onto the plane.
White House deputy press secretary Katrine Jean-Pierre, answering reporters’ questions, said, “He is doing 100%. He's fine. … he's preparing for the trip today. And he is doing just great."