Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden is in damage limitation mode after saying African Americans “ain’t black” if they even consider voting for President Donald Trump over him.
Gaffe-prone Biden made the remark in an interview on Friday with a prominent black radio host, Charlamagne Tha God, about his outreach to black voters.
Biden later expressed regret for the “cavalier” comment.
The black vote has been key to the Biden candidacy.
What exactly did Biden say?
Throughout the 18-minute interview, Biden, 77, stressed his longstanding ties to the black community, noting his overwhelming win this year in South Carolina’s presidential primary, a state where the Democratic electorate is more than 60 percent African American.
“I won every single county. I won the largest share of the black vote that anybody had, including Barack,” he said of President Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president, who picked Biden as his running mate.
Biden also “guaranteed” that several black women were being considered to serve as his vice-president. The presumptive nominee has already committed to selecting a woman to join him on the Democratic ticket.
Toward the end of the interview, a campaign aide interrupted to say the former vice-president was out of time.
When an aide for Biden tried to end the interview, Charlamagne protested, saying: “You can’t do that to black media.”
“I do that to white media and black media,” Biden replied, adding that his wife was waiting to use their home broadcast studio.
Charlamagne urged Biden to return for another interview, saying he had more questions.
“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden responded.
Charlamagne’s nationally syndicated Breakfast Club show reaches more than 8 million listeners each month.
How is the Biden camp trying to contain the damage?
Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders defended the comments on Friday, saying they were made “in jest”.
“Let’s be clear about what the VP was saying: he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day. Period.”
Biden scrambled to make amends on a call later to black business leaders.
“I should not have been so cavalier,” he said. “I’ve never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted.”
He added: “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”
He continued: “No-one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background.”
What’s the reaction?
The Trump campaign seized on the remarks, which senior campaign adviser Katrina Pierson described as “racist and dehumanising”.
“He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how black people should behave,” she said.
Her comment was echoed by Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican.
“That is the most arrogant, condescending comment I’ve heard in a very long time,” he told on Fox News.
“He’s saying that 1.3 million African Americans, that you’re not black? Who in the heck does he think he is?” the South Carolina lawmaker said, referring to the black Americans who voted for Trump in 2016.
Biden’s words also provoked criticism from his side of the aisle.
Keith Boykin, a former aide to Democratic President Bill Clinton, tweeted: “Yes, Biden is a much better choice for black people than racist Trump.
“But white people don’t get to tell black people what is black. Biden still has to EARN our vote.”
Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told CBS News that Biden could not “take the African-American vote for granted”.
One disappointed black voter’s response went viral.