Biden, in Leaked Audio, Told Civil Rights Leaders ‘Defund the Police’ Slogan Was Used to ‘Beat the Living Hell Out’ of Democrats

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In a leaked recording obtained by The Intercept, President-elect Joe Biden warned a number of civil rights leaders that pushing for police reform by using slogan “defund the police” could hurt not only those reform efforts, but also their party’s chances of winning the Georgia Senate runoffs — arguing that Republicans used the credo to “beat the living hell out” of Democrats this year.

On Tuesday, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris joined a phone call with a number of prominent civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, to discuss executive actions he could take to support racial equality in the United States.

Although the call was meant to be private, someone evidently recorded it and shared it with The Intercept’s Ryan Grim.

During the call, NAACP President Derrick Johnson warned that choosing Tom Vilsack to be secretary of agriculture would anger Black farmers because he fired Shirley Sherrod — a civil rights hero in the state and their former Director of Rural Development.

Adding to the list of things Democrats should avoid in order to win the Senate seats, Biden suggested, to the group of civil rights leaders, that police reform should take a back seat until after the election:

“I also don’t think we should get too far ahead of ourselves on dealing with police reform in that, because they’ve already labeled us as being ‘defund the police’ anything we put forward in terms of the organizational structure to change policing — which I promise you, will occur. Promise you,” Biden said to the leaders.

“That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police. We’re not. We’re talking about holding them accountable. We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things. We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.”

Listen, via The Intercept’s podcast Deconstructed.

Update: Biden’s team has since shared a statement on the leaked audio with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy. 

“President-elect Biden is the same person behind closed doors that he is public; honest, direct and realistic about the challenges facing our nation the day he is sworn it,” they stated. “He has made clear throughout the campaign, he believes in supporting board and urgent reform to our criminal justice system while continuing to support law enforcement’s mission to keep our communities safe.”

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