Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday — and he didn't hold back. Biden called out Trump at Al Sharpton's MLK breakfast for his past statements making "a moral equivalence between those who were spreading the hate and those who were opposing it." Biden said he never expected to hear a president say such a thing and criticized that hatred had been "deliberately reawakened" in the country.
Biden never used Trump's name during the speech. But, he connected Trump to what he said through criticism of President Trump's response to the violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the killing of Heather Heyer. "No president since the Civil War has ever, ever, ever uttered words like that," Biden said in his speech, The New York Daily News reported.
"We've learned in the last two years it doesn't take much to awaken hate, to bring those folks out from under the rocks," Biden told the crowd, at times addressing Martin Luther King III, Dr. King's son, who was also at Biden’s table. "That part of American society has always been there, will always be there, but has been legitimized."
"Dr. King would know those faces well, those lost souls, that once stood like cowards, hooded, behind burning crosses," Biden continued. "They have been deliberately reawakened again, those forces. It's not an accident."
Biden's appearance was seen as important to his 2020 bid, even though he didn't mention whether he would run. The only reference to the race was made by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose name has also been floated as a contender.
"Whatever the next year brings for Joe and me, I know we'll both keep our eyes on the real prize of electing a Democrat to the White House in 2020 and getting our country back on track," Bloomberg told the crowd.
Biden's speech covered everything from his friendship with former President Barack Obama, to his past mistakes with regards to criminal justice reform. He supported bills that are now seen as driving the racial disparity in drug sentencing minimums.
"You know I've been in this fight for a long time. It goes not just to voting rights, it goes with the criminal justice system," Biden told the crowd. "I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right, but I've always tried."
Biden talked about how many areas in American life remain unequal, especially things like schools and education. "The bottom line is we have a lot to root out, most of all the systematic racism that most of us whites don't like to acknowledge even exists," Biden said. "We don't even consciously acknowledge it, but it's been built into every aspect of our society."
Biden and Bloomberg were not the only two 2020 hopefuls scheduled to attend an event with Sharpton on Monday. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has announced her intention to run and just returned from a trip to Iowa, was set to meet Sharpton in Harlem during the afternoon.
Biden's speech — thanks to addressing Trump, even without his name — will be hard for any other hopeful to top.