At prayer breakfast, Biden calls on Americans to “confront and defeat political extremism”

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President Biden said he’s been to many of the annual National Prayer Breakfasts over the years — every president since Dwight Eisenhower has attended — but he told attendees Thursday that “we know this time is different,” pointing to the pandemic and “political extremism” in the country.

“Our eyes just witnessed images what we’ve never imagined, images that now we’ll never forget. A violent assault of the U.S. Capitol — an assault on our democracy and our Capitol — a violent attack that threatened lives and took life,” Mr. Biden said in a pre-recorded address to the virtual National Prayer Breakfast. “We know now we must confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism. For so many in our nation, this is a dark, dark time. So, where do we turn? Faith.” 

Mr. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, told the virtual gathering, “For me, in the darkest moments, faith provides hope and solace, provides clarity and purpose, as well.” He said it inspires the nation to “respect one another, to care for one another.”

“These aren’t Democrats, Republicans, who are going hungry in our nation: they are our fellow Americans, fellow human beings,” Mr. Biden said. “And these aren’t Democrats, Republicans, losing their lives to this deadly virus. They are fellow Americans, fellow human beings.”

“This is not a nation that can or will simply stand by and watch this. It’s not who we are. It’s not who faith calls us to be in this moment,” Biden said.” ” In this moment we cannot be timid or tired.”

It was a far different tone than the rancor displayed by President Trump at last year’s prayer breakfast. Then, Mr. Trump celebrated his Senate impeachment acquittal by holding aloft the front page of a newspaper that bore the one-word headline “Acquitted.” In his remarks, Mr. Trump said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” a likely reference to Romney, who said he had to follow his conscience and the oath he swore before God in casting the sole Republican vote to convict Mr. Trump for abuse of power. “Nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so,” a reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

This year’s breakfast occurred five days before Mr. Trump’s second Senate impeachment trail is slated to begin. Former Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton and Obama also delivered recorded messages to the breakfast. Mr. Trump did not.

“The Bible tells us, weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.  We still have in front of us many difficult nights to endure, but we’ll get through them together,” he said.

Weijia Jiang contributed to this report.

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