Fact check: Joe Biden called 'forces of intolerance,' not Trump supporters, the 'dregs of society'

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President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden argue about white supremacy and ANTIFA at the first 2020 presidential debate. USA TODAY

The claim: Joe Biden called Trump supporters ‘dregs of society.’

Less than a month before Election Day, supporters of President Donald Trump revived an old clip of his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, referring to an unnamed subset of individuals as the “dregs of society.”

A campaign account, Trump War Room, claimed on Twitter that the remark was in reference to “Trump supporters.”

And Donald Trump Jr. took to Instagram to share the same claim — emblazoned on the back of a truck — alongside references to remarks by former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Joe Biden calls us dredges of society.. Obama called us clingers.. Hillary called us deplorables. Terrorist call us infidels,” the image reads. “TRUMP CALLS US ALL AMERICANS.”

Trump War Room and Trump Jr. did not respond to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

Biden called ‘forces of intolerance,’ not Trump supporters, the ‘dregs of society’

Contrary to those claims, Biden was not referring to Trump supporters when he referenced individuals in the “dregs of society.”

The remark came in a speech that Biden gave on Sept. 15, 2018, at an annual dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights nonprofit.

In the speech, he discussed the stakes of advocacy work in the Trump era.

“We’re faced with an administration, and some of its most ardent right-wing supporters from the Ku Klux Klan — the head of the Ku Klux Klan has endorsed (Trump) — and the alt-right, who are trying to undo all the progress you have made, and the little that Barack and I have made with you,” he said.

He also spoke out against cultures and communities that terrorize and torture LGBTQ individuals.

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“But despite losing in the courts and in the court of public opinion, these forces of intolerance remain determined to undermine and roll back the progress you all have made,” Biden said. “This time they, not you, have an ally in the White House. This time they have an ally. They’re a small percentage of the American people. Virulent people. Some of them the dregs of society.”

In context, his remark about the “dregs of society” was referring not to all Trump supporters, but to “forces of intolerance,” including those he referenced previously in his speech, like the alt-right and KKK.

An analysis by Snopes reached a similar conclusion, and rated the tweet from Trump War Room as false.

Obama claimed small towns ‘cling’ to guns and God, Clinton called half of Trump supporters ‘deplorables’ 

The post by Trump Jr. also references remarks from other Democrats who made recent runs for the White House — Obama and Clinton.

Though it’s unclear who exactly the post is referring to by its use of the word “us,” only one of the former nominees’ comments was directed at Trump supporters, specifically.

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The “clingers” comment from Obama actually came from a speech he made as a senator in 2008. Speaking about “small towns in Pennsylvania” that were left behind by previous administrations, Obama said that it’s “not surprising then they get bitter.”

“They cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” he added.

The infamous “deplorables” comment from Clinton, though, is real and in reference to Americans who back Trump.

At a fundraiser in 2016, she claimed “half of Trump’s supporters” could be put into “the basket of deplorables,” which she referred to as “the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, (and) Islamaphobic.”

Our rating: Partly false

The claims made about statements that Biden, Obama and Clinton have made about Trump supporters are PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. Biden was referring to “forces of intolerance,” like the KKK and the alt-right, when he made reference to the “dregs of society.” Likewise, Obama was not referring to Trump supporters when he said that some small towns “cling” to guns and God. However, Clinton did say that half of Trump’s supporters belong to a “basket of deplorables.” 

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