The mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer expressed her disappointment and frustration that 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden used footage from that violent day and invoked her daughter’s memory in the launch of his campaign, all while not giving a heads-up to the family that he would be doing it.
The former vice president officially announced the launch of his campaign on Thursday with the release of a video announcing his candidacy. In the video, Biden spoke about the violence at Charlottesville in 2017, where groups of white nationalist supporters had violent clashes with counter-protesters and Heyer was killed by a man who intentionally drove his car into a crowd of people. After the violence, Donald Trump refused to condemn the white nationalist groups and said there were “very fine people” on both sides.
“That’s when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were quote some ‘very fine people on both sides.’ Very fine people on both sides?” Biden said in the video, calling out Trump for creating a “moral equivalence” between people spreading hate and “those with the courage to stand against it.”
The video was praised by Biden’s supporters and political pundits for a forceful rebuke on Donald Trump in a race where some candidates have decided not to directly engage the president, but it was not welcomed by the mother of Heather Heyer. Speaking to The Daily Beast, Susan Bro said that she as not surprised to see someone trying to her user daughter’s death as a way to score political points.
“Most people do that sort of thing. They capitalize on whatever situation is handy,” she said. “He didn’t reach out to me, and didn’t mention her by name specifically, and he probably knew we don’t endorse candidates.”
Daily Beast reports Biden campaign didn't tell Heather Heyer's mother that he'd be invoking his daughter's murder in his campaign launch video.— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) April 25, 2019
"Most people do that sort of thing. They capitalize on whatever situation is handy" https://t.co/KJhwUBDHk9
Bro said she has come to learn that her daughter’s death was a public event, and it is a “fact of life” that people will use it “however it suits them.” Bro has gone on to start the Heather Heyer Foundation and is careful not to wade into politics, noting that neither she nor the organization endorses candidates. She added that it is difficult to view footage from her daughter’s death and said reporters who were at the scene at the time have told her it is traumatizing for them to view it as well.
The resurfacing of the video in Joe Biden’s campaign launch came as a shock to Bro.
“It was a little annoying to be woken at 7.20 a.m. to start dealing with it,” she said. “It reminded me of the press turning up at my home at 9 a.m. after Heather died. This was not as intense as that.”