Former Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday President Donald Trump is the first racist president.

In a virtual Q&A session with the Service Employees International Union, Biden accused Trump of racism in response to the president repeatedly calling coronavirus “China virus,” the “kung flu” and the “Wuhan virus.”

“What President Trump has done in his spreading of racist – the way he deals with people based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they’re from – is absolutely sickening,” Biden said.

“No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never,” Biden added. “No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”

Despite criticism toward Trump’s remarks about coronavirus and concerns over rising anti-Asian sentiments as a result of these statements, some criticized Biden for his comment, given the history of many past U.S. presidents being slave owners.

 

Among early U.S. presidents, at least 12 owned slaves. Eight presidents owned slaves while in office, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor. President Woodrow Wilson, who served in the early 20th century, supported segregation policies. During his time in the office, the White House screened the racist film The Birth of a Nation, which glorified the Ku Klux Klan leaders as heroes. Last month, Princeton University removed his Wilson’s name from its public policy school and a residential college due to “racist views and policies.”

Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders later clarified Biden’s claims in a statement.

“There have been a number of racist American presidents, but Trump stands out – especially in modern history – because he made running on racism and division his calling card and won,” she said. “He deliberately foments both, intentionally causing indescribable pain because he thinks it advantages him politically. The George Wallaces of our country’s history who have run on these hate-filled themes have lost.”

During White House press briefing, Trump was asked to address Biden’s comment. Trump did not address the claim directly but said he said he had “done more for black Americans than anybody with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln. Nobody has even been close.”

The Trump campaign called Biden’s accusations “outrageous” and defended the president.

“President Trump loves all people, works hard to empower all Americans, and is supported by more Black voters than any Republican presidential candidate in modern history,” campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson said in a statement. “No one should take lectures on racial justice from Joe Biden.”