Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a call with black business leaders said he “should not have been so cavalier” with his controversial remarks for insinuating that black voters unsure about whether to support him or President Trump “ain’t black.”
“I should not have been so cavalier. I’ve never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted,” Biden said, addressing the controversy within the session starting in a phone call with the U.S. Black Chambers Friday afternoon. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”
He went on to say his choice of words was “unfortunate,” and was only trying to make a point contrasting his records with President Trump
“No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background,” Biden said. “There are African Americans who think that Trump was worth voting for, I don’t think so. I’m prepared to put my record against his. That was the bottom line and it was really unfortunate I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
The former vice president acknowledged that his comment made it seem like he was taking “the African American vote for granted.”
“I know that the comments have come off like I was taking the African American vote for granted. But nothing could be further [from] the truth,” Biden said. “I’ve never ever done that, and I’ve earned it every time I’ve run. I was making the point that I have never taken the vote for granted. And in fact, I know in order to win the presidency, I need the African American vote. And it was the driving force, as I said, in the beginning of my campaign [a] year ago, to my being able to win in the first place and win the primary. And it is going to be critical to my winning the presidency.”
The remarks from Biden came hours after a testy exchange on “The Breakfast Club” Friday morning with Charlamagne Tha God. The former vice president responded to a question by saying, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”
Biden’s campaign sought to manage the fallout, with his senior adviser Symone Sanders defended the comments, saying they were made “in jest,” while pointing out to the former vice president strong support from black voters who delivered him resounding victories in the Democratic presidential primary.
The remark sparked an immediate firestorm on social media, with liberal activists and conservatives jumping on Biden for lecturing black people on how to vote while questioning their racial authenticity.
Patrick Gaspard, president of George Soros’s Open Society and a former top aide in the Obama administration, said Biden “is in no position” to “determine who is black enough or not.”
Former spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and a frequent Biden critic, Briahna Joy Gray tweeted that the former vice president comments are a “reductive view of race & politics being pushed by the identity is destiny crowd.”
Musician Diddy addressed Biden over Twitter, telling him that the “black vote ain’t free.”
— Diddy (@Diddy) May 22, 2020
The Trump campaign also seized on Biden’s remark. On a call with reporters shortly after the interview, Trump’s top adviser, Katrina Pierson, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, rapped Biden for the comment.
“Joe Biden has a history of saying dehumanizing things when it comes to black Americans,” Pierson said. “White liberal elitists have continuously dictated which black Americans are allowed to come to the table and have a voice. It is clear now more than ever, following these racist and dehumanizing remarks, that Joe Biden believes black men and women are incapable of being independent or free-thinking.”
Pierson added: “He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how black people should behave. Biden has a history of racial condescension and today he once again proved what a growing number of black Americans and I have always known — Joe Biden does not deserve our votes.”
Scott accused Biden of “negative race-baiting rhetoric.”
“I thought to myself, I’ve been black for 54 years. I was struck by the condescension and the arrogance.” Scott said. “I could not believe my ears that he would stoop so low to tell folks what they should do, how they should think, and what it means to be black. Race-baiting in the 21st century is an ineffective tool to attract one of the most intelligent voting blocs in the nation. He should respect African-American voters as individuals, not as a part of a group or a monolithic group of people.”
The hashtags #youaintblack and #JoeBidenIsARacist both became national trending hashtags on Twitter in the wake of Biden’s disastrous interview.