Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. defended the 1994 crime bill, his signature piece of legislation, but said elements of it were not carried out properly by the states.
Asked by George Stephanopoulos if it was a mistake to support the bill, Mr. Biden replied: “Yes, it was. But here’s where the mistake came. The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”
Mr. Biden defended the legislation as indicative of its time, saying it had the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Black mayors across America. But he said racial justice issues in America were different now than they were when the bill passed a generation ago.
“Things have changed drastically,” he said.
Mr. Biden, who delivered lengthy answers throughout the first 40 minutes of his town hall event, gave an eight-minute disquisition about the history of the legislation and how conditions have changed since it was enacted.
Toward the end of his response, he reiterated that he opposed defunding police departments, and that he instead called for more training and more social workers to help police officers de-escalate situations.
When he finished, as Mr. Stephanopoulos went to a commercial break, Mr. Biden turned to the questioner and said, “I don’t know if I answered your question.”