Election 2020

Wait. Did Twitter Just Get a Head Start on Throwing Joe Biden's Racist Comments Down the Memory Hole?

Wait. Did Twitter Just Get a Head Start on Throwing Joe Biden's Racist Comments Down the Memory Hole?
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Update below.

On Thursday, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden infamously said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re voting for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” This downright racist comment did not exactly go over well, and Biden ultimately decided to offer a half-hearted “apology.” But it seems Twitter has decided to cover for him.

Donald Trump Jr. noticed that Twitter decided to hide messages containing the clip, warning they contain “sensitive content.”

“So interesting how [Twitter] is censoring the racist clip of [Joe Biden] telling black Americans that they ‘ain’t black’ if they don’t vote for him,” Trump Jr. tweeted. “They’re trying to protect Joe! They don’t want the American people to know about his disgusting & dehumanizing racist mentality.”

Twitter’s right: This was “sensitive.”

Biden’s racist comments are indeed “sensitive content.” They really struck a nerve.

“My DNA, life experience, heritage and culture are what define my Blackness. With all due respect, [Joe Biden], you don’t get to define who I am,” Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James tweeted in response to Biden’s “you ain’t black” statement.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) spoke for the millions of black Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 but whose blackness Biden openly questioned.

Scott tweeted, “1.3 million black Americans already voted for Trump in 2016. This morning, Joe Biden told every single one of us we ‘ain’t black.’ I’d say I’m surprised, but it’s sadly par for the course for Democrats to take the black community for granted and brow beat those that don’t agree.”

Indeed, the comments did take black people for granted, and the Trump campaign powerfully contrasted Biden’s racist statement with the current president’s concrete actions to help black Americans.

Indeed, Trump’s many actions to help black Americans speak for themselves. In February 2017, about a month after Trump took office, the presidents of 100-plus Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) met with the president in the Oval Office. Trump welcomed rapper Kanye West to the White House and made powerful strides in the realm of criminal justice reform. He has elevated black and brown Americans to high positions in government: naming Ben Carson to HUD; naming Ajit Pai chairman of the FCC; hiring Omarosa Manigault Newman in the White House (who said Trump wasn’t racist before she accused him of being racist); Surgeon General Jerome Adams; and many more.

Under Trump, the black unemployment rate reached its lowest point in 17 years. Trump celebrated the low unemployment rate in his second State of the Union address, but Democrats did not rise to clap for this great achievement. Voters have said Trump is better for young black Americans than former President Barack Obama.

The president has received praise from many black Americans. Some leaders of HBCUs praised Trump as being “more responsive to our community” than Obama’s administration was. Robert Johnson, the first black billionaire, gave the president an “A+” on the economy.

Indeed, CNN’s Don Lemon was so astonished when a black pastor refused to condemn Trump as racist … that he decided to attack the pastor! Corrin Rankin, the black woman leader of the Legacy Republican Alliance, told PJ Media that Trump is proof Republicans aren’t racist.

Liberals also condemned Biden’s comments

Republicans were not alone in attacking Biden for the racist comments, however.

“Yes, Biden is a much better choice for black people than racist Trump. But white people don’t get to tell black people what is black. Biden still has to EARN our vote,” Keith Boykin, a former aide to former President Bill Clinton, tweeted.

Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told CBS News that Biden cannot “take the African-American vote for granted.”

Even gaffe machine Joe Biden realized that he had made a mistake. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” he said in a half-hearted apology. “I know that the comments have come off like I was taking the African American vote for granted, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Yet black Republicans would likely argue Biden’s comments were of a piece with the former vice president’s dismissive attitude. Biden infamously warned black Americans that Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains.” In 1987, he praised segregationist George Wallace and said, “We [Delawareans] were on the South’s side in the Civil War.” Yikes!

Twitter gets a head-start

Yet even though Boykin rightly condemned Biden’s comment, Boykin went on a long Twitter rant condemning Trump as a racist. While Democrats and left-leaning media outlets may condemn Biden’s racist statement now, they will likely cast it down the memory hole as soon as possible. Don’t expect this to feature prominently in mainstream media coverage anytime closer to November. Don’t expect them to pester Biden about it in interviews the way they pester Trump about his comments after the Charlottesville riots.

It seems Twitter just got in on the memory-holing early. Sure, the comment is “sensitive,” but does that really mean the social media site has to block tweets about it?

PJ Media asked Twitter to respond to Trump Jr.’s claim that it was covering up Biden’s racist statement. Twitter did not respond. This story will be updated with any response.

Update 10:25 a.m.:

A Twitter spokesperson told PJ Media that the “sensitive content” blocking has to do with the account owner’s media settings.

According to Twitter’s help center, users can warn Twitter that they may post sensitive content. In order to do this, users can go to the “settings and privacy” settings and follow these instructions:

Look for the Tweet media section and check the box next to Mark media you Tweet as containing material that may be sensitiveNote:When you have this setting enabled, people who visit your profile may see a message letting them know your account may include potentially sensitive content and asking them to confirm they still want to view it. People who have opted in to see possibly sensitive content will still see your account without the message.

Yet the same help center entry explains that Twitter may label the media a user posts as “sensitive” even if that user does not have this setting enabled. “We may label the media as being potentially sensitive, or in the case of live video, remove the content entirely,” the social media platform explains. “We may also change your account setting to Mark media you Tweet as containing material that may be sensitive so that future posts are marked accordingly.”

In other words, Twitter’s explanation to PJ Media is largely a dodge. The Breakfast Club and Katrina Pierson may have the “sensitive content” setting set on Twitter by choice, but even if they didn’t choose that setting, Twitter reserves the right to set it for them in order to mark certain posts as “sensitive.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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