UPDATED May 22, 5:26 p.m. In a phone call with members of the U.S. Black Chambers Friday afternoon, Joe Biden walked back the comments he'd made earlier on “The Breakfast Club,” acknowledging that he shouldn’t have been so tone-deaf about the concerns of undecided black voters.
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy. I should not have been so cavalier,” the former vice president said after his morning appearance on the popular hip-hop radio show stirred outrage on social media from both sides of the aisle. “I’ve never, ever, ever taken the African American community for granted.”
“There are African Americans who think Trump is worth voting for,” he added. “I'm prepared to put my record against his."
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden just got downright awkward on “The Breakfast Club,” telling popular black radio host Charlamagne Tha God that he “ain’t black” if he couldn’t decide whether to vote for Biden or President Trump.
The comments sparked a firestorm of criticism, sent the hashtag #YouAintBlack trending on Twitter, and served as a timely reminder to many observers that Biden has a tendency to jam his foot in his mouth at the least opportunity.
The remarks came at the end of a lively interview Friday morning in which Charlamagne pressed Biden over his record, agenda and running mate, before saying: “Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden. It’s a long way until November. We've got more questions.”
Biden said: “You’ve got more questions, but I tell you, if you’ve got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Charlamagne responded that his skepticism about Biden has “nothing to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact [that] I want something for my community.”
The interview then mercifully drew to a close with Biden cheerfully promising to return to the show again. But the damage was done.
Biden captured the Democratic presidential nomination with widespread support among black voters, especially in the early-voting state of South Carolina, which revived his once-doomed campaign. But he faced pushback from Charlamagne: “A lot of black voters, including myself, feel… that Democrats take black voters for granted.”
Charlamagne also challenged Biden to acknowledge that the 1994 crime bill, which Biden helped write, “was damaging to the black community.”
Biden insisted the law “didn’t increase mass incarceration” — a view contradicted by, among others, former President Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law. Clinton said in 2015 that the law “made the problem worse.”
Biden added that “multiple” black women are being considered to become his running mate.
But it was his painfully awkward sign-off from the interview that immediately drew pushback on social media.
Former members of the Bernie Sanders campaign, which had challenged Biden for the Democratic nomination, were quick to take issue with Biden’s remarks, warning him not to assume black voters will turn out for him in the general election.
Nina Turner, former national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, hailed the interview as “tremendous,” adding, “We must place a demand on our vote!”
Sanders’ former press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, pointed out that a significant portion of black voters in Wisconsin stayed home on election day in 2016, when Trump beat Hillary Clinton, implying Biden could suffer the same fate in this year’s general election if he takes black votes for granted.
Candace Owens, a black conservative commentator and Trump supporter, tweeted acidly that the comments served as a “reminder to black people: If you don’t do the bidding for wealthy white democrats, ‘you ain’t black.’
Cover: Charlamagne Tha God interviews former Vice President Joe Biden on The Breakfast Club. (Source: YouTube)