Biden meets with Jacob Blake's family in Wisconsin on trip to 'bring people together'

The former vice president and his wife spoke to Jacob Blake by phone.

The Bidens visited with Blake's family Thursday afternoon at Milwaukee General Mitchell Airport inside a private building off the tarmac before heading to the community meeting.

They spoke to Jacob Blake, who is out the intensive care unit, from his hospital bed over the phone, according to Ben Crump, Blake's attorney, who said in a statement that the in-person meeting also included Jacob’s father, sisters and brother. Crump said he and Jacob's mother also joined the meeting by phone.

"The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen," Crump said.

He said that Jacob’s mother led them all in prayer for his recovery and topics of discussion included changing interactions between minorities and police, the impact of selecting Sen. Kamala Harris as Biden's running mate and the pain the family is enduring.

Blake's mother said, "I'm praying for Jacob and I'm praying for the policemen, as well. I’m praying that things change," Biden said in a Kenosha, Wisconsin, church after the meeting.

"The vice president told the family that he believes the best of America is in all of us and that we need to value all our differences as we come together in America’s great melting pot," Crump said. "It was very obvious that Vice President Biden cared, as he extended to Jacob Jr. a sense of humanity, treating him as a person worthy of consideration and prayer."

Biden said he came away from the meeting with "the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism" the family has from "the kind of response they're getting."

The Democratic nominee’s visit, according to his campaign, is an effort to "bring together Americans to heal and address the challenges we face," after Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer, and in the midst of protests across the country over racial inequality.

It comes as Biden continues to pitch himself as the empathy candidate and distinguish himself -- and his response to calls for racial justice -- from the president. Back in June, Biden also met with the family of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis, and spoke at Floyd's funeral.

A meeting organized by the Biden campaign for Thursday was attended by about 20 community leaders, including clergy, politicians and police officers. Biden, all speakers and attendees wore masks in accordance with state mandates.

Biden listened to the concerns of community speakers before offering remarks.

"No matter how competent or incompetent a president is, they can send a nation to war, they can bring peace, they can make markets rise or fall, and they can do things that I -- that I’ve observed can make a difference just by what they say,” Biden said.

While what we’re seeing is not "all his fault," Biden said, his rhetoric "legitimizes a dark side of human nature" and his presidency has "exposed what had not been paid enough attention to, the underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States, still, still exists, has existed for 400 years."

He applauded wide support for Black Lives Matter despite Trump's disparaging remarks, but said: "Let’s get something straight here. Protesting is protesting. My buddy, John Lewis, used to say, but none of it justifies looting, burning or anything else."

Prior to his trip, Biden said the intend purpose of his visit was to "heal."

"We've got to put things together. Bring people together. And so my purpose in going will be to do just that. To be a positive influence on what's going on," Biden told reporters Wednesday, one day after Trump's own visit to Kenosha.

The dueling visits follow days of local protests and the killing of two protesters in late August after authorities say Kyle Rittenhouse, a pro-police 17-year-old, opened fire. Social media accounts associated with Rittenhouse's name contain references to support for Trump.

Biden's visit comes despite warnings from some local leaders to both the former vice president and Trump about the fragility of the city in the wake of Blake’s shooting, as tensions continue to run high over differing accounts from Kenosha Police and the Blake family about the incident.

In addition to Biden’s visit, the campaign released a new ad on Thursday, titled "We’re Listening," in which Biden declares "now is the time for racial justice." The ad, which will air digitally in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, is part of a $45 million investment in five seperate ads this week alone.

The trip marks the first time Biden has visited the critical swing state of Wisconsin in 674 days -- after stumping for Sen. Tammy Baldwin there in October 2018 -- and the first time the former vice president has held an event outside of his home states of Pennsylvania and Delaware since the coronavirus pandemic brought the in-person campaign trail to a halt.

It was also the first visit to Wisconsin by a Democratic presidential candidate in the general election since 2012 -- when former President Barack Obama visited the state the day before the election.

ABC News' John Verhovek, Averi Harper and Stephanie Wash contributed to this report.

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