RICHMOND — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he would not be seeking the presidency if it weren’t for the white supremacist violence that occurred in Charlottesville in 2017 and President Donald Trump’s response to it.

At a fundraiser in Richmond, about an hour east of Charlottesville, the Democrat said he was prepared to reenter private life after forgoing a primary run against Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“I had not planned on running for the presidency,” Biden said. “And I mean that sincerely.”

Biden said his calculation changed “when those folks came out of the fields carrying those torches, chanting the anti-Semitic bile and their veins bulging, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan, with such ugliness.”

“I never thought I’d see something like that again in my life. That’s when I decided,” Biden said.

Since Trump said there “very fine people” on both sides of the Charlottesville rally, Biden said, his rhetoric has “gotten worse.”

“The way in which he refers to … Mexicans, the way he refers to people of color,” Biden said. “The way he attempts to divide — and does deliberately divide the nation — to maintain power, is dangerous.”

Biden spoke to a crowd of about 150 people gathered at The Boathouse, a seafood restaurant on the James River where guests ate fried oysters, vegetable spring rolls and hush puppies as they took in panoramic views of Virginia’s capital city. He arrived at the venue shortly after 7 p.m. and began a roughly 30-minute speech at 7:35 p.m.

The host committee for the event included U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, but McEachin was unable to attend. Other state and local political figures in the crowd were Democratic Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, the chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus; Dels. Delores McQuinn, D-Richmond, and Debra Rodman, D-Henrico; and James “JJ” Minor, the president of the NAACP’s Richmond chapter.

Biden made the Charlottesville rally a key theme of his campaign kickoff video, and he began his speech Tuesday by saying there were “two reasons” Virginia is key to his presidential bid. After noting that an “extremely talented neurosurgeon” at the University of Virginia performed two aneurysm-related brain surgeries on him in 1988, Biden launched into an extended riff on the Charlottesville violence and what it represented.

“There’s always been a contest between good and evil in this country. Since the original sin of slavery, there’s always been this piece of us that had a minority who were white supremacists. And people who were haters,” Biden said.

Drawing a comparison to the massive KKK march in Washington, D.C., in 1925, Biden said racism has “always been the underbelly of our society.”

“The only way it gets defeated is that everybody has to speak up. Everybody,” Biden said. “Because our silence is complicity.”

Biden said he didn’t want to suggest all Trump supporters are racist, but they “know who he is” and may “tolerate him” because they support his tax cuts or other policies.

”They have no illusions about the man,” Biden said.

At other points in the wide-ranging speech, Biden panned Trump’s performance at the recent G-7 economic summit, promised to boost government investment in health research on diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and talked up his working relationships with world leaders and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

{span}{span}”I think we can get a lot more done with President Trump out of the way,” he said.{/span}{/span}

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