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Viral Video Takes Biden’s Use of a Racial Slur Out of Context
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Viral Video Takes Biden’s Use of a Racial Slur Out of Context

The clip from a 1985 congressional hearing shows the then-senator reading quotes from other politicians.

Joe Biden at a Senate hearing in 1988. (Photo from the Bettman Collection/Getty Images)

In a May 30 piece for Slate detailing his days as a producer for The Apprentice, Bill Pruitt claimed that Donald Trump had used a racial slur while discussing a black contestant on the show. The exchange is supposedly recorded on tape, though no evidence has been released.

In response to the controversy, a number of pro-Trump social media accounts have resurfaced a decades-old clip of Joe Biden in which the then-senator says the N-word not just once, but twice.

These clips take Biden’s remarks out of context. In the full video, Biden can be heard quoting another person’s use of the slur as evidence of racial discrimination in a Louisiana redistricting case. 

The clip originates from the June 5, 1985, testimony of William Bradford Reynolds, a nominee to the post of associate attorney general by then-President Ronald Reagan. Reynolds, who was then serving as the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, faced criticism from senators, including Biden, for his approval of a Louisiana redistricting plan that protected the seat of a Republican congressman by splitting a majority-black district in Orleans Parish. The plan contrasted with a previous redistricting effort—known as the Nunez Plan—that would have created a majority-black district.

During the second day of the testimony, Biden spent nearly 20 minutes questioning Reynolds about his approval of the plan and whether Louisiana Republicans, especially Gov. David Treen, had purposefully drawn the districts with the intent of preventing the formation of a majority-black district. Biden, who opened questioning during the six-and-a-half-hour session, expressed concern that Reynolds had approved of the redistricting plan despite there being clear evidence of intent to discriminate against black Americans. 

“The court found the plan with unerring precision slices through the city’s traditional subunit, the ward, in a racially selective manner, leaving intact predominantly white wards while carving up those densely populated by blacks,” Biden said. “In confidential portions of your staff memo, they brought to your attention the allegation that important legislators, in defeating the Nunez plan in the basement said, quote, ‘we already have a n—— mayor, we don’t need any more n—— big shots,’” he added, offering further proof that Louisiana legislators had deliberately intended to limit black representation.

Reynolds’ nomination was eventually rejected by the Judiciary Committee, the first time a major presidential nomination had been blocked by a committee since the 1981 nomination of John Van de Water to the National Labor Relations Board.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.