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In Detroit, Joe Biden touts progress for Black voters. Here are the facts

President Joe Biden touted progress of Black voters during a speech Sunday at Huntington Place at the Detroit Branch NAACP's annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner. (Bridge photo by Simon D. Schuster)
  • President Joe Biden spoke to several thousand at the Detroit Branch NAACP's Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner
  • The president contrasted his record with likely opponent, former President Donald Trump
  • Biden promised to expand civil and voting rights. Some of his assertions lacked context or key details

May 21: White House corrects Biden

DETROIT — President Joe Biden made his case to Black voters on Sunday, touting gains of minorities under Democratic presidents and slamming the record of his likely opponent, Donald Trump.

Speaking at the Detroit Branch NAACP’s Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place, Biden promised to fight to expand voting protections and civil rights.

The Democrat also contrasted his record with the Republican Trump, whose campaign has been explicit about targeting Black voters in Michigan and elsewhere.

Biden told the sold-out crowd Trump is “unhinged,” “running for revenge” and that “you’re the reason Donald Trump was defeated for president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is going to be a loser again.” 

“Let me ask you: What do you think he would have done? On Jan. 6 if Black Americans had stormed the Capitol? I'm serious,” Biden said. “What do you think? I can only imagine.”


Biden’s visit comes as he trails Trump in polls in Michigan and works to muster enthusiasm among African-Americans, traditionally one of the Democratic Party’s strongest constituencies. 

But outside of Huntington Place was evidence of crosswinds facing Biden’s campaign, as roughly 100 pro-Palestinian protestors protested his administration’s support of Israel. 

House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, and U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit, greeted President Joe Biden on Sunday when he arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. (Bridge photo by Simon D. Schuster)

Biden’s speech was the culmination of a multi-week courtship of Black voters in Michigan and other states. Vice President Kamala Harris was also in Michigan May 6 for a White House event touting the Biden administration’s efforts to broaden economic opportunity.

Biden arrived in Detroit after delivering the commencement address earlier Sunday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, an all-male historically Black college.

“If Black men are being killed in the street. What is democracy?” Biden said in the address, according to the Associated Press. “The trail of broken promises that still leave Black communities behind. What is democracy? If you have to be 10 times better than anyone else to get a fair shot.”

Watch the speech:

At the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Biden was greeted by state House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, Attorney General Dana Nessel and U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit. 

Before the NAACP speech, Biden spoke at a private gathering inside CRED Cafe in Detroit, where he spoke for about four minutes and said Trump wants to end all the “progress we’ve made.”

Janiyah Thomas, the Trump campaign’s Black media coordinator, told The Detroit News that Biden was “on a pandering tour because he knows what we all know: without the Black vote, there is no Democrat Party.”

Fact checks

Bridge fact-checked Biden’s address to the NAACP and other remarks on Sunday. Some of his assertions were off the mark.

Biden told the NAACP the racial wealth gap — the disparity in wealth between Black and white Americans — was the lowest in 20 years.

But analyses from multiple organizations such as the Brookings Institution and the Americans Civil Liberties Union notes that while Black wealth has grown, the gap has also grown wider, from about $124,000 in 1992 to nearly $215,000 in 2022.

Obamacare success

Biden’s assertions about health care were on firmer footing. Slamming Trump as wanting to “back up all the .. progress we’ve made,” Biden said there are “3 million more people, African Americans, who have health insurance now because we were able to increase it.”

In 2011, 19.3% of Black Americans were uninsured, as compared to 10% in 2022, according to a KFF analysis. It was a decline of about 4.1 million through 2019, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Still, inequities in health care coverage have persisted. Black Americans remain 1.5 times more likely to be uninsured than their white peers, according to KFF.

In recent years, progress on expanding insurance coverage also reversed when the end of pandemic-era policies in March 2023 kicked millions of Americans from the program. 

In Michigan alone, 450,000 people were disenrolled and lost coverage.

During a Sunday visit to Detroit, President Joe Biden spoke for about 4 minutes at the CRED Cafe. (Bridge photo by Simon D. Schuster)

Trump’s plans for health care

In his speech, Biden said Trump “wants to terminate the Affordable Care Act.” Reality is a little more complicated.

Throughout his first term in office, Trump often asserted he was in favor of a “repeal and replace” approach to Obamacare.

“We’re going to fight for much better healthcare than Obamacare,” Trump said earlier this year. “Obamacare is a catastrophe.”

He has not, however, ever provided a detailed plan for what his replacement would contain.

The American Health Care Act, a replacement for the ACA that originated in Congress, nearly passed the body but was blocked by then-Sen. John McCain’s thumbs down floor vote in 2017

Two months before the 2020 election, Trump had touted an “America First Health Care Plan,” but legislation to implement the plan never gained traction in Congress.

Other assertions made by Biden during the speech, including his claim that Trump has said he’d consider pardons for those convicted in the Jan. 6, 2021, riots, were mostly true.

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