Joe Biden sought to defend his Washington record on a wide range of issues in an interview Friday with New York radio host Charlamagne tha God before joking at the end: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”
The comment provoked immediate backlash, prompting the former vice president to apologize for the “really unfortunate” remark later Friday on a phone call with U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
“No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background,” he added.
The line concluded a freewheeling 20-minute discussion that touched on everything from the legalization of marijuana to COVID-19′s disproportionate impact on minority communities and the mass incarceration of Black people.
(Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana, but has stopped short of calling to legalize it. And regarding mass incarceration, Charlamagne called out tough-on-crime policies Biden supported in the 1980s and ’90s that critics say landed millions in jail.)
“It has nothing to do with Trump,” Charlamagne responded. “I want something for my community.”
Biden urged him to take a closer look at his record in the Senate.
“I extended the Voting Rights Act 25 years,” he said. “I have a record that is second to none. The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.”
Biden quickly got some backlash. Patrick Gaspard, who was an aide to former President Barack Obama and U.S. ambassador to South Africa, said on MSNBC that Biden was in “no position to determine who was Black enough or not.”
Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders attempted to clarify the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s remarks as the interview clip went viral.
“The comments made at the end of the Breakfast Club interview were in jest,” Sanders tweeted, “but 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.”
She continued: “Vice President Biden spent his career fighting alongside and for the African American community. He won his party’s nomination by earning every vote and meeting people where they are and that’s exactly what he intends to do this November.”
Trump, who has a long and notorious history of racism, won just 8% of the Black vote four years ago and remains deeply unpopular.