Updated May 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden apologizes for "you ain't black" comments

Joe Biden defended on Friday his ties to the African American community during an interview with Charlamagne tha God on the radio show "The Breakfast Club," saying "you ain't black" if "you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or [President] Trump."

Why it matters: The show has become a popular venue for Democratic candidates to sell their message to black voters during this election cycle, given its young, diverse audience and wide syndication.

  • The former vice president's comments came just after Charlamagne challenged him on his record on racial issues — and pressed him on whether he would select a black woman as his running mate.
  • Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders later tweeted that his comments were made "in jest," adding that " he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day. Period."

Biden apologized on Friday afternoon for the comment in a campaign call with black business leaders.

  • “I should not have been so cavalier. I've never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted," Biden said, according to CBS News' Ed O'Keefe.
  • "No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background."

The exchange:

  • Charlamagne: "They feel since black women are such a loyal voting bloc, and black people saved your political life in the primaries this year — they have things they want from you. And one of them is a black woman running mate. What do you say to them?"
  • Biden: "What I say to them is I’m not acknowledging anybody who is being considered, but I guarantee you: There are multiple black women being considered. Multiple."
  • Biden aide [interjecting]: "Thank you so much. That’s really our time. I apologize."
  • Charlamagne: "You can't do that to black media."
  • Biden: "I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock. [looks at watch] Ooh, uh oh, I'm in trouble."
  • Charlamagne: "Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, V.P. Biden. It's a long way until November. We've got more questions."
  • Biden: "You’ve got more questions. Well, I tell you, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black."
  • Charlamagne: "It don't have nothing to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact I want something for my community. I would love to see — "
  • Biden: "Take a look at my record, man. I extended the Voting Right Act 25 years. I have a record that is second-to-none. The NAACP has endorsed me every time I've run. I mean, come on. Take a look at the record."

Worth noting: As Charlamagne hinted during their exchange, Biden owes his status as the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee to his primary win in South Carolina, which was largely driven by his wide support among black voters in the state and the support of its "kingmaker," Rep. Jim Clyburn.

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