Joe Biden says he was motivated by first black DA to become D-A

The Vice-President was twice praised at a Philadelphia forum for his reputation as a ‘straight talker’

Joe Biden spoke about rape and racism, lived at a homeless shelter and oversaw a national overhaul of the jail system at a forum Wednesday night, just hours after a jury found a white police officer not guilty of murdering a black man during a traffic stop.

Biden struck a far different tone after Philadelphia judge Ernest Caponera’s verdict on Tuesday night than former Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams, the first black person to hold the post.

Over a year and a half before the scandal that toppled Williams, at a talk in Philadelphia at the annual convention of the NAACP, Biden was praised by a group of civil rights leaders for his reputation as a “straight talker”.

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During a tearful speech, Williams told the audience he took responsibility for “the Baltimore and Philadelphia chapter of my life,” referring to the unethical actions of four prosecutors, including his wife, who had been involved in $200,000 in apparent public corruption. The remarks were viewed as a colossal misstep for the first black DAs to hold that position.

In a brief video posted to the Philadelphia NAACP’s Twitter account, Biden praised the “brilliant and kind” women in the audience and described his early days as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, when he recalls meeting the group’s first black district attorney. “She was extraordinary. She really was. So she motivated me. I remember coming back and saying, ‘I know I’m gonna be a D-A,’” he said.

Before Williams took office, no African Americans had held a Philadelphia DAship since 1949. But an election this year by those who overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton has proved that the city is ready for change.

Biden has been an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised throughout his decades-long political career. His speech on Wednesday night, the first since he announced that he is not running for president in 2020, marked the start of the Biden-as-soldier tour that his aides have hinted would continue over the next two months.

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