Accuracy in Media

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made another odd public statement in this election cycle, saying that the assassination of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., “did not have the worldwide impact” that George Floyd’s death has had.

Biden’s statement came during a roundtable event in Philadelphia.

The newspaper headlined its take on Biden’s comments in a video on its website, “Floyd’s Killing Is Having a Greater Impact than King’s, Biden Says.” But the New York Times did not write an article or an analysis of Biden’s comments and nor did it praise or condemn Biden’s comparison.

“Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did,” Biden said. “It’s just like television changed the Civil Rights movement for the better when they saw Bull Connor and his dogs ripping the clothes off of elderly black women going to church and firehoses ripping the skin off of young kids.

“What happened to George Floyd — now you got how many people around the country, millions of cellphones. It’s changed the way everybody’s looking at this. Look at the millions of people marching around the world.”

Biden’s comments ignored the context of history between today and the days of King. Today’s media features a 24/7 news cycle, television, social media, and widespread use of the Internet and smartphones across the world.

Floyd’s death while in police custody spread quickly and dominated the global news cycle. In King’s day, there was television, but not the rapid and worldwide spread of information as today. It was obvious for Biden to point out the difference between today and King’s assassination in 1968.

King was a pivotal civil rights figure who changed American history and his assassination came amid a campaign to resolve economic inequality for black Americans. Although Floyd’s death was unjust, Floyd was not a notable civil rights activist when compared to King. It was odd for Biden to compare Floyd’s death to King’s assassination, especially due to King’s national profile and his many civil rights marches, campaigns, and accomplishments.

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