Joe Biden tells radio host he 'ain't black' if he's having trouble deciding between him and Trump
Comment was precipitated by criticism over reports that Amy Klobuchar is Biden's potential running mate
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he "should not have been so cavalier" in comments earlier Friday in which he suggested black voters who back President Donald Trump "ain't black."
During an interview on the syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club, host Charlamagne Tha God pressed Biden on reports that he is considering Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is white, to be his choice for vice-president and told him black voters saved his "political life in the primaries" and "have things they want" from him.
"I'm not acknowledging anybody who is being considered," Biden said. "But I guarantee you there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple."
A Biden aide then sought to end the interview, prompting the host to say, "You can't do that to black media."
Biden responded, "I do that to white media and black media," and said his wife needed to use the television studio.
He then added: "If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black."
The host countered that conversations about Biden's running mate aren't about President Donald Trump, whose approval ratings with black voters have consistently been low
"Take a look at my record," Biden said, citing his work as senator to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "The NAACP has endorsed me every time I've run. Come on, take a look at my record."
Biden addressed the controversy during a conference call with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce Friday afternoon.
"I should not have been so cavalier. I've never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted," Biden told participants on the call.
"No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background."
Biden defends record
Biden has emphasized his relationship with black voters, noting throughout the campaign his dependence on black voters in his Delaware Senate races and his partnership as President Barack Obama's top lieutenant.
Black voters helped resurrect Biden's campaign in this year's primaries with a second place finish in the Nevada caucuses and a resounding win in the South Carolina primary after he'd started with embarrassing finishes in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire.
Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden, said his parting comment in Friday's interview was "made in jest."
"Let's be clear about what the VP was saying," Sanders tweeted. "He was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump's any day. Period."
There is a risk, however, of black voters, especially those who are younger, staying home in November, which could complicate Biden's path to victory in a tight election. The Breakfast Club is a particularly notable venue for Biden's comments because the program is popular among younger black people.
Biden's selection of a running mate could help motivate voters. He's begun vetting contenders, a process he's said will likely last through July. Several black women are reportedly among those under consideration.
'Arrogant and condescending'
Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is black, characterized the comments on social media as "the most arrogant and condescending thing" he's heard in a very long time.
"I am offended, but not surprised," said Scott.
Music producer Sean "Diddy" Combs commented: "Aye bruh @JoeBiden I already told you the #BlackVoteAintFree."
Joe Biden’s comments are the most arrogant and condescending thing I’ve heard in a very long time. I am offended, but not surprised. <a href="https://t.co/aXiVF6oAwc">pic.twitter.com/aXiVF6oAwc</a>—@SenatorTimScott
Biden has made similarly problematic comments before.
He was picked as vice-president running mate in 2008 despite describing Obama the year before as "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Early in this season's presidential campaign, when talking about equality of opportunity for children, he remarked: "Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids."
Trump's campaign seized on Biden's comments on Friday.
"He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how black people should behave," said Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson.
The president has a history of incendiary rhetoric related to race, however.
When he launched his presidential campaign in 2015, Trump called many Mexican immigrants "rapists." In 2017, he said there were good people on "both sides" of the clash in Charlottesville, Va., between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead.
Last year, Trump blasted four Democratic congresswomen of colour, saying they hate America and should "go back" to where they come from, even though all are U.S. citizens and three were born in the U.S.