The mother of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 while protesting white supremacy, said Friday she didn’t know beforehand that former Vice President Joe Biden was going to mention her daughter’s death in his 2020 campaign launch video.
“I guess I’m not surprised,” Susan Bro told CNN’s “New Day.” “It seems like Charlottesville has been a defining moment for a lot of people.”
Biden announced his bid for the presidency on Thursday with a taped message invoking the violence that unfolded at the racist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, where 21-year-old neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters, fatally striking Heyer.
In December 2018, Fields was sentenced to life in prison for her murder.
Biden did not refer to Heyer by name in his video, but noted that “a brave young woman lost her life” in Charlottesville and that she was part of “a courageous group of Americans.” Biden’s campaign video includes footage of white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, carrying torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
Bro told CNN she didn’t realize Biden mentioned her daughter in his video until reporters started calling her that morning.
“It was just sort of a feeling of, ‘Well, here we go again,’ because it’s referred to so often in news articles, stories,” she said. “It’ll show up at the most unexpected moment. I’ll be watching something on TV and there it will be again. So it happens a lot.”
According to Bro, it was only at 4:30 p.m. Thursday ― hours after the video had been posted online and widely covered in the news ― that Biden called her.
Bro said it was the first time the candidate or anyone from his campaign had reached out to her.
“I think he said something about ‘I would have reached out sooner, but I wasn’t sure how you would feel,’” Bro told CNN. “And I commented, ‘Yes, I noticed you didn’t mention her name because you hadn’t contacted me.’”
The two also talked about grief, she said. Biden has suffered multiple personal losses, including his first wife, Neilia Hunter, and his daughter Naomi Christina in a 1972 car accident. His son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, at age 46.
Bro suspected Biden was checking on her “to make sure I was OK.”
“Apparently there were rumors swirling that I was devastated and traumatized, and none of those things were true,” she said of the video ― though she said it was likely painful for at least some survivors of the violence.
“I think it was traumatizing for some other people in Charlottesville to just suddenly have that thrown up at them on the screen,” she said. “I did mention that to him, that that probably had triggered some other people.”
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.