President Joe Biden said former military and former law enforcement officers fuel the “growth of white supremacy” during a CNN town hall Tuesday.
Biden claimed that studies have shown former military and police are contributing to the growth of extremist groups.
“You see what’s happening the studies that are beginning to be done, maybe at your university as well, about the impact of former military, former police officers on the growth of white supremacy in some of these groups,” Biden said.
The president said he got involved in politics because of civil rights and his opposition to white supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan, calling domestic terror “the greatest threat of terror in America” today.
“So I would make sure my Justice Department and the Civil Rights Division is focused heavily on those very folks. I would make sure … we focus on how to deal with the rise of white supremacy,” he said.
Biden continued, “You may remember in one of my debates from the former president, I asked him to condemn the Proud Boys — he wouldn’t do it. He said ‘stand by, stand ready’ or whatever the phrase exactly was. It is a bane on our existence. It has always been. As Lincoln said, ‘we have to appeal to our better angels. These guys are not … they are in fact demented. They are dangerous people.”
When asked about “ongoing threats to our country from Americans who embrace white supremacy,” Biden said the problem is “complex, it’s wide ranging, and it’s real.”
A formerly unpublicized Pentagon report from October 2020 shows the military’s effort to keep extremists out.
Obtained by CQ Roll Call, the report details a number of measures the Department of Defense is taking to remove service members with extremist connections, including reviewing an FBI database of extremist tattoos and improving security clearance questions.
While the report concludes that neo-Nazis and additional extremists are not common in the U.S. military, it said service members and veterans are “highly prized” recruits for extremist groups.
“Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events,” the report said. “Access to service members with combat training and technical weapons expertise can also increase both the probability of success and the potency of planned violent attacks.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and a former member of the Armed Services Committee, said he intends to introduce legislation requiring the DoD to implement the report’s suggestions.
“What the report made clear is that white supremacists are using our military to further their hateful and violent agenda,” Aguilar said. “We need further collaboration between agencies like the DoD and FBI to make sure that we’re keeping extremists away from our service members and keeping our communities safe as well.”