Former Obama adviser Axelrod: Biden's Atlanta speech rhetoric 'not very useful'

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Former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod added his name to the list of prominent Democrats critical of President Biden’s racially charged speech linking opponents of his party’s federal election overhaul bill to segregationists and Confederates.

"I don’t think the president’s rhetoric in Atlanta was particularly useful," Axelrod, a CNN senior legal adviser said on Thursday. "There are real issues here and they shouldn’t be obscured by hyperbolic rhetoric."

Axelrod was President Barack Obama's senior adviser when Biden was Obama's vice president.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. <span class="copyright">REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst</span>
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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Axelrod’s comment comes days after President Biden accused opponents of the federal election overhaul bill of standing with prominent Democrat segregationists George Wallace and Bull Connor as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis, also a Democrat.

"So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered?" Biden said during remarks from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. "Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?"

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on voting rights during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. <span class="copyright">REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo</span>
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on voting rights during a speech on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The speech was widely panned by Republicans but was also criticized by some prominent Democrats including longtime Biden ally Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) who said Biden "perhaps went a little too far."

MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton also dinged Biden on the speech, calling it a "You’re going to hell" speech rather than one that would get voters’ support.

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed criticism of the speech by pointing the finger at former President Trump.

"I know there has been a lot of claim of the offensive nature of the speech yesterday, which is hilarious on many levels, given how many people sat silently over the last four years for the former president," Psaki said during a Wednesday press briefing.

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