Former Vice President Joe Biden's role in authoring a controversial 1994 crime bill received both ridicule and support this week from bipartisan figures who say President Bill Clinton, Black leaders and news media "overreaction" helped pass the legislation that was widely popular at the time.
Biden on Thursday apologized for his "mistake" in supporting a 1986 bill that created wide racial disparities in crack cocaine sentencing as well as the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which he authored. Fox News host Tucker Carlson and MSNBC host Al Sharpton on Friday both sought to explain Biden's chief role in passing the crime bills that are widely derided today by both Democrats and President Donald Trump for spiking incarceration rates, targeting young Black men, and widening racial disparities in the criminal justice system still present today.
A pocket of Black lawmakers were convinced to support the 1994 bill by President Bill Clinton—including late civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia. But they "got almost nothing in return" for their last-minute backing, The Baltimore Sun reported at the time.
Tucker Carlson reveals best way to 'wreck Joe Biden'
Carlson defended Biden's move to end "drug-fueled crime" throughout the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s, which he said was prompted by a drug epidemic and ensuing murder crisis that drew overwhelming demands for "tough on crime" action nationwide.
"The majority of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the crime bill they're now telling us was written by the Klan," the Fox News host said Friday night. "By the way, the Republicans are saying that too, mindlessly. Joe Biden knows these bill weren't mistakes. We don't put people in jail in this country for being Black. We didn't do that in the 1980's and 90's. Sorry. People go to jail for committing crimes."
The crime bills held wide support from Black pastors and 28 of 38 members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the time, including the chairman of the Black Caucus who co-sponsored the 1986 crack cocaine sentence law. Carlson defended Biden's role in promoting the bills, while Sharpton said "he was not alone," but has since worked to right the wrong.
Critics, including civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, railed against Biden and the 1994 crime bill in testimony at the time. Jackson ridiculed the legislation in a congressional floor speech, saying: "Twelve years of getting 'tough on crime,' doubling government spending almost 50 percent, tripling the jail population, reviving the death penalty."
Sharpton highlighted Trump's support of a national stop-and-frisk policy during his 2016 campaign and said the president has done nothing to commute unfair sentences for people who committed non-violent drug crimes. Sharpton defended Biden following Thursday's debate, in which Biden referred to both pieces of legislation as a "mistake." The National Action Network leader said Biden worked with former President Barack Obama to commute sentences.
"In 1994, I was one of the people marching against the crime bill and against Senator Biden. Many of the black leaders were for the crime bill, most of the Congressional Black Caucus was," Sharpton told MSNBC Friday, noting the June 1986 overdose death of basketball player Len Bias sparked widespread outrage
Carlson said Biden's anti-crime legislation "enormously popular" due to a 1980s drug epidemic and ensuing crime wave which spiked murder rates across much of the country.
During last Thursday's debate, Biden described how he plans to move forward and erase some of the mistakes from his past support of the now-derided legislation. Critics of Biden's campaign have promoted video clips of Biden's Senate floor warnings of "predators on our streets" who were "beyond the pale."
"We should not send anyone to jail for a pure drug offense, they should be going into treatment across the board. That's why I set up drug courts which were never funded by our Republican friends," Biden said.
The 1994 legislation authored by Biden was the largest crime bill in U.S. history. It was sponsored by Representative Jack Brooks of Texas and funded 100,000 new police officer positions, $10 billion for prisons, and $6.1 billion in prevention programs aimed at heading off criminal activity.
Ten of the 38 Black Democrats in the House voted against Biden and Clinton when the bill was put up for a procedural motion, primarily over the death penalty being applied to dozens of cases viewed as wrongful.
As was reported ubiquitously in advance, Trump’s political allies had begged him to avoid the train wreck of the first debate by following a simple instruction for the finale: Stop interrupting so that “Sleepy Joe” will drone on and self-destruct with a disqualifying gaffe that will reveal him to be in the grip of dementia, Sanders socialism, or both.
Tucker Carlson may not, in legal terms, be a credible source of news, but even so he rarely misses an opportunity to try to own the libs. And he raced out of the gate on his show Friday night with a rant about Thursday’s presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, praising Trump for being “tireless” while mocking Biden for being old — even though they’re very close in age.
“President Trump, believe it or not, about to take the stage for another rally tonight, this one in Pensacola, Florida. He was up late last night, he’s at it again. Say what you will, he’s tireless. We’ll be monitoring his remarks for any news, and of course we’ll bring it to you if it happens,” Tucker said.
During Trump’s rally marathon, Tucker has said that every night Trump has held one of these speeches, but “Tucker Carlson Tonight” never actually shows any of Trump’s remarks. Friday was no exception.
In any case, Tucker loved Trump’s debate performance Thursday night. Carlson praised Trump for being able to stay calm enough to express a coherent thought this time out, drawing a contrast with how Trump behaved during the chaotic first debate.
“Did you see the debate last night? Probably did. Too bad it was the last one. We learned a lot in an hour and a half — we always do. We learned that self-control pays off. Donald Trump pulled back a little bit on stage and he’s never been better than he was last night. You could understand what he was saying and that helped,” Tucker said.
“At the same time we learned that if you really want to wreck Joe Biden, let him talk without a script for two minutes. At his age that’s like the iron man. It wears him right out.”
Donald Trump is 74 years old.
Tucker continued on by mocking those who are upset by things Trump does.
“We also learned something that we already knew: Donald Trump drives a certain sort of person completely insane,” Tucker said.
“There’s nothing Trump says that doesn’t frighten people like this. He could recite the words from the happy birthday song and they would hear machine gun fire. These are highly neurotic individuals. You get the sense many of them have severe allergies and digestive problems, though of course we’re only speculating about that.”
Today I went to my parents house for a BBQ in my @realDonaldTrump 2020 shirt. And they asked me to change to keep the peace between families.— Kasey (@kay_may1) July 22, 2019
THIS IS THE WORLD WE LIVE IN!!!
I can’t openly support my president at a family function.
To me that’s VERY disappointing
New York Gazette ™ WATCH: Tucker Carlson takes apart Biden at last night's debate and it's AWESOME.: https://t.co/8kJpXXlp1h - In his show on Friday night, Tucker Carlson reviewed last night’s debate extensively. He crushed the idiots over the coyote… https://t.co/CrEG9E7Lyr pic.twitter.com/f5c3kA7yRY— George Mentz JD MBA (@GeorgeMentz) October 24, 2020
On my appearance on FOX today, from the radio show.https://t.co/GoPQ1i3V4b— Tony Katz (@tonykatz) October 20, 2020
🚨BREAKING 🚨— Benny (@bennyjohnson) October 17, 2020
SOURCES AND DOCUMENTS CONFIRM JOE BIDEN WAS PERSONALLY PROFITING OFF OF CHINESE DEALS AS VICE PRESIDENT | Fox News https://t.co/hePpMSGFgm