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Biden, Harris to meet with Asian-American leaders in Ga. to offer support after shootings

They had initially planned to visit Atlanta to promote the Covid-19 relief package.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Asian-American community leaders during a scheduled visit to Georgia on Friday in the wake of the spa shootings in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

Biden and Harris' visit to Atlanta, which will be their first joint trip since taking office, had initially been scheduled as part of the administration's "Help is Here" tour promoting the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package.

Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk along the Colonnade in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Washington.Alex Brandon / AP

While the aid package will be a key focus of their trip, administration officials said the visit was adjusted in response to the shooting.

Officials said Biden and Harris will offer their support to the community, but the exact details of their trip are still being determined.

A gunman shot and killed eight people at three spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday night. Cherokee County sheriff's Capt. Jay Baker said that after a brief manhunt, Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested and later confessed to the attack.

Baker said at a news conference Wednesday that Long claimed the attack was not racially motivated. The suspect told investigators that he had a "sex addiction" and that he saw the spas as "a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate," Baker said. Law enforcement officials said Long was believed to have previously visited the spas he targeted.

Democrats and community leaders in Georgia have said that race cannot be ignored as a motive, especially considering that Anti-Asian hate incidents have dramatically increased during the pandemic, with a disproportionate number of attacks directed at women.

Biden said Wednesday that he understood the concerns among Asian Americans as investigators work to determine a motive.

"Whatever the motivation here, I know Asian Americans, they are very concerned, because as you know, I have been speaking about the brutality against Asian Americans, and it's troubling," Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the rhetoric former President Donald Trump employed in speaking about the pandemic, often using derogatory language to describe the coronavirus, such as referring to it as the "Kung Flu," put Asian Americans at risk.

"I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration calling Covid the 'Wuhan virus' or other things led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate and unfair, and has elevated threats," Psaki said Wednesday.

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