Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, who criticized President Donald Trump’s use of the term “lynching” to describe the impeachment inquiry currently unfolding in the House of Representatives, used the term himself when he was a Delaware senator in 1998.
“Even if the president should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense,” Biden told CNN during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings.
The comments, first uncovered by the network’s KFILE, showcase a double-standard from Democrats, who were quick to attack the president for invoking the term to describe the current impeachment process underway in the House.
“Impeachment is not ‘lynching,’ it is part of our Constitution,” Biden tweeted Tuesday. “Our country has a dark, shameful history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent. It’s despicable.”
Impeachment is not "lynching," it is part of our Constitution. Our country has a dark, shameful history with lynching, and to even think about making this comparison is abhorrent. It's despicable. https://t.co/QcC25vhNeb
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 22, 2019
According to CNN, the Biden campaign at first refused to comment before issuing an apology on Twitter Tuesday night.
“This wasn’t the right word to use and I’m sorry about that,” Biden wrote. “Trump on the other hand chose his words deliberately today in his use of the word lynching and continues to stoke racial divides in this country daily.”
This wasn’t the right word to use and I’m sorry about that. Trump on the other hand chose his words deliberately today in his use of the word lynching and continues to stoke racial divides in this country daily. https://t.co/mHfFC8HluZ
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 23, 2019
On Tuesday morning, Trump used the term on Twitter to describe impeachment proceedings being levied against him.
“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!” the president tweeted.
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here – a lynching. But we will WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2019
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, “lynch” is a synonym for “hang”: “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” People of all races and nationalities have been killed by hanging, although of course in the United States it has most prominently been used as an act of terrorism against African Americans, largely half a century ago.
Biden was also not the only Democrat to use this word to describe the Clinton impeachment proceedings. According to the Washington Post, at least five House Democrats used the term to brand the Republican effort to remove President Clinton in the 1990s, including New York Rep. Jerry Nadler, who still serves in Congress and is now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee overseeing critical steps of the impeachment process.
A series of polls following last week’s fourth Democratic primary debate have comfortably landed Biden back on top of the still-crowded Democratic field as the frontrunner. Biden now leads the pack with nearly 29 percent support, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren beginning to trail behind with only 23 percent. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders comes behind in a distant third place at little more than 16 percent support.
Biden has taken repeated criticism for his record on race issues, with California Sen. Kamala Harris slamming the former vice president for his opposition to busing students according to their race and touting his friendly relationships with segregationist senators as examples of his civility at the first Democratic primary debate in Miami in June.
“Vice President Biden, I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said standing next to Biden. “I also believe — and it’s personal and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing.”
WATCH: Harris says she doesn't think Biden is a racist, but she talks directly to Biden about his having worked with segregationists on the issue of school busing. #DemDebate2 pic.twitter.com/Ytb2xvOhux
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 28, 2019
Early in the campaign, Biden bragged about his friendships with former segregationist Sens. James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia as examples of his ability to work across the aisle, comments Biden later walked back.