New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending a racially charged joke he made with Hillary Clinton this weekend that has drawn widespread criticism online.
In an appearance on Saturday at Inner Circle Show, an annual dinner event where New York City's politicians and political press make fun of each other, de Blasio was joined by Clinton and Leslie Odom Jr., a star in the Broadway hit Hamilton.
Clinton, a surprise guest, jabbed at De Blasio for taking such a long time to endorse her presidential campaign, earning an "Oh snap!" from Odom. "Sorry Hillary," de Blasio responded. "I was running on CP time."
The "CP time" line is a reference to "colored people time" and a racial stereotype about black people not being punctual.
The audience reacted with a mixture of gasps and awkward laughter, and one voice shouted "No!"
Odom cut in, telling de Blasio, "I don't like jokes like that, Bill."
Clinton then interjected, telling Odom that de Blasio actually meant "cautious politician time." Odom then nodded in agreement.
The joke earned strong rebukes online, including from Black Lives Matter activist Brittany Packnett, journalist Ferrari Sheppard, activist Imani Gandy, and others. DeRay McKesson, another high-profile Black Lives Matter activist who is now running for mayor in Baltimore, also retweeted the story.
Many social media users wondered what the reaction would have been if Bernie Sanders or a Republican politician had made the same joke. Others argued that de Blasio doesn't get a "pass" on racial issues because his wife is black.
The mayor told CNN on Monday night that critics are "missing the point here," arguing that the entire exchange was scripted. "Every actor involved, including Hillary Clinton and Leslie Odom Jr., thought it was a joke on a different convention — that was the whole idea," he said.
"Let's be clear, in an evening of satire, the only person this was meant to mock was the mayor himself, period," a spokesperson for de Blasio added in an email. "Certainly no one intended to offend anyone."
A mayoral spokesperson told VICE News that the entire script, including the "CP time" joke, was written by an outside comedy writer who was hired for the event, as de Blasio's office does every year.
De Blasio's office also pointed to a New York Daily News column by Robert A. George, who was at the event and thought the joke was funny. George called for "lefty Social Justice Warriors" and "righty conservatives" to "just lighten up."
The mayoral spokesperson also pointed to a tweet from Ebro Darden, a host on New York's Hot 97 radio, in which he said that the social media backlash to the joke was "wild." In another series of tweets responding to fans who were outraged by the joke, Darden, who is black, said that he thought the joke was "funny".
But when de Blasio posted video of the event on his Facebook page on Saturday, the "CP time" joke was cut out.
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