On Monday afternoon, former Vice President Joe Biden made his first appearance in the state since formally accepting the presidential nomination for the Democratic Party. In a 20 plus minute address in Pittsburgh, Biden accused President Donald Trump of fanning the flames of recent riots, while also returning fire on a claim that has been a central message from the Trump campaign in western Pa.
“He’s stoking violence in our cities,” Biden said in prepared remarks.
“The fires are burning – and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting them,” Biden said. “This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence – because for years he has fomented it.”
The former VP also called on the nation to stand against violence in “every form it takes,” by condemning “unwarranted police shootings and excessive force,” as well as “senseless violence of looting and burning and destruction of property.”
A key message Trump stressed during his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination last week was that he is the “law and order” candidate and painted Biden and Democratic run cities as “lawless.” In a statement responding to Biden’s address, the Trump campaign echoed some of these sentiments, while claiming that Biden wasn’t condemning the “left-wing mobs burning looting, and terrorizing American cities.”
“As predicted, Joe Biden today failed to condemn the left-wing mobs burning, looting, and terrorizing American cities, said Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director. “He failed to condemn Antifa.”
“In truth, if you listen to Biden, it’s almost impossible to tell where his campaign ends and Antifa begins,” Murtaugh continued in part of the statement. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
Despite Murtaugh’s claim, Biden did specifically call out rioting and looting in his speech.
“I want to make it absolutely,” Biden said during his speech. “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting.”
However, Biden did not specifically mention Antifa during his address, which the Trump campaign criticized him for.
Biden attempted to fight back on the narrative from the Trump campaign by dismissing the claim that he’s a “radical socialist” and said that he wants a “safe America.”
“Ask yourself: Do I look to you like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters,” Biden asked. “Really?”
“I want a safe America – safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops,” Biden continued.
Another key point that Biden drove him during his address is that he does not support a ban on fracking.
“I am not banning fracking,” Biden said. “Let me say that again. I’m not banning fracking, no matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me.”
Trump and allied super PACs have attacked Biden over fracking in Pennsylvania, claiming that the Democratic presidential nominee will ban it. A common attack that Trump has recited on the campaign trail, that has been repeated in attack ads, is that a fracking ban would kill 600,000 jobs in the state.
Trump’s claim about 600,000 jobs being lost in Pennsylvania due to a fracking ban is based off of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study from 2019. This study was based off of a hypothetical nationwide ban on fracking, which Biden does not support. The former VP was criticized in the Democratic Primary over his opposition to a nationwide ban on the industry.
Biden has not called for the elimination of fracking, but did say that his administration would ban “new gas permitting on public lands.” Biden’s campaign has instead attempted to make the case that he can protect workers and the environment at the same time.
A fact-check from the Philadelphia Inquirer deemed Biden’s claim from his speech in Pittsburgh to be “mostly true,” because he doesn’t call for a fracking ban, however, he didn’t mention during his address that he wants to stop issuing new permits for fracking on public lands.
A bevy of polls provides mixed results for fracking in the state.
A CBS/YouGov poll released in August showed that 52% of voters in the state oppose fracking, while 48% support it. In this same poll, Trump had a slight edge over Biden on which candidate would do a better job on oil and gas exploration, including fracking, with 45% saying Trump would do a better job, while 42% said Biden would.
A poll commissioned by a climate group that opposed Trump’s environmental agenda, Climate Power 2020, attempts to change the narrative by releasing polling that shows fracking is not popular in the state and that Democrats would instead benefit from not embracing it. 61% in that poll of respondents had a favorable view of the “natural gas industry” versus 23% unfavorable, resulting in a net favorability rating of 38 points. But 50% of respondents had an unfavorable view of “the fracking industry” versus 32% favorable, net unfavorable by 18 points. That is a swing of 56 points merely by saying “fracking” in place of “natural gas.”
However, polling from the American Petroleum Institute conducted in late June to early July paints a totally different picture of the issue in the state. 80% in that poll said natural gas and oil provide value to them personally, while just 13% said it does not provide much value or no value at all to them.
Biden’s appearance in the state is just the first in a busy week for both campaigns. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to headline a “Workers for Trump” event in Luzerne County on Tuesday afternoon, while Trump will deliver remarks in Westmoreland County on Thursday.
Prior to Biden’s Monday afternoon visit to the state, his most recent trip was on July 9 when he delivered an economic recovery address in Lackawanna County.
Below is Biden’s full address.