Fact Check: Did Joe Biden Compare George Floyd to MLK?


Jan. 18 2022, Published 8:20 a.m. ET

On Jan. 17, as the country was observing the federal holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a controversy erupted due to President Joe Biden’s comments about George Floyd, who was killed in a case of police brutality on May 25, 2020. What exactly did Biden say about MLK and Floyd?

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The Biden administration added a federal holiday on June 19 or Juneteenth. However, the day started in 1865 in Texas and it isn't linked to Floyd. On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger declared that slavery was over in Texas.

What exactly did Biden say about MLK and George Floyd?

In June 2020, when Biden was the presumptive Democratic nominee for the election, he said, “Even Dr. King's assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd's death did.” He added, "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."

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Are there any similarities between George Floyd and MLK?

There aren't many similarities between MLK and George Floyd apart from their race. MLK was assassinated by a criminal James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968, while Floyd was killed by a police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020.

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Critics argue that Biden is wrong in comparing MLK, who was among the greatest civil rights leaders, to Floyd, who was a criminal with a long history of crimes. Indeed, there aren't any comparisons between the two per se, but their killings have a similarity that's rooted in racism.

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Biden didn't compare MLK to Floyd.

In the polarized times that we live in, it's easy to get swayed. Many people on social media have been saying that Biden compared MLK to Floyd and are ridiculing him for the comments. However, Biden’s comments are more about the global impact of both events. We live in a globalized world like never before and events in one part of the world resonate in other countries as well.

It's likely that a lot more people globally discussed Floyd’s death than MLK’s assassination after the civil rights leader was killed. The BLM movement also strengthened after Floyd’s death and people across the world came out in support. Social media has given people a platform to react to such events. When MLK was assassinated, people having televisions was a privilege.

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Biden gave a MLK Day speech.

On MLK Day, Biden talked about the previous comments made by Dr. King’s family and called upon people to celebrate what MLK “lived for and what he died for.” Drawing a comparison between MLK and Floyd, they both had contrasting characters and different purposes.

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While there's ambiguity about why Ray killed MLK, and some see a bigger conspiracy, MLK was killed for his views, while Floyd’s death was a case of police brutality. However, there's definitely the racism angle in both of the killings.

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The comments that Biden made about Floyd and MLK were made a while ago. On MLK Day, he tweeted, “Living up to his legacy, and what Dr. King believed our nation could become requires more than just reflection — it requires action.” Biden called on Congress to pass the Federal legalization to protect the right to vote.

Biden might be right that Floyd’s death created more outrage globally than MLK's death. However, critics tweaking his comments to draw comparisons between the two personalities is just a reflection of the polarized times.


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