WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday defended his record of helping African Americans and advancing civil rights and voting rights, before ending an interview by telling a black radio host that if he can’t decide whether to vote for Biden or Trump, then he “ain’t black.”
Appearing on the syndicated program “The Breakfast Club,” the apparent Democratic presidential nominee told co-host Lenard McKelvey, known professionally as Charlamagne tha God, that there were “multiple” black women on his short list for VP. Biden has pledged that he will select a woman to be his running mate.
Biden surged to victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders in large part because of overwhelming black support in the South Carolina primary and other major primaries throughout March.
“I’m not acknowledging anybody who is being considered, but I guarantee you: There are multiple black women being considered,” said Biden, who served under the first black president, Barack Obama. “Multiple.”
Biden’s campaign team is reportedly vetting at least three black female Democratic lawmakers as potential running mates: Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Rep. Val Demmings of Florida and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Susan Rice, who served as national security advisor to Obama, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate.
About 20 minutes into the interview, an aide to Biden can be heard trying to wrap up, saying, “Thank you so much. That’s really our time. I apologize.”
“You can’t do that to black media!” Charlamagne replied, smiling.
“I do that to white media and black media because my wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” Biden responds, apparently referring to an interview that Dr. Jill Biden had to film from the same basement studio. “Uh oh. I’m in trouble,” Biden added, looking at his watch.
“Listen, you’ve got to come see us when you come to New York, VP Biden,” Charlamagne said. “It’s a long way until November. We’ve got more questions.”
“You’ve got more questions? Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden quipped, before smiling broadly.
“It don’t have nothing to do with Trump, it has to do with the fact — I want something for my community,” Charlemagne replied.
“Take a look at my record, man,” exclaimed Biden. “I extended the Voting Rights Act 25 years. I have a record that’s second to none. The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Take a look at the record. Anyway, thanks, I will come back.”
The exchange was quickly seized upon by Trump supporters, who accused Biden of racism, as well as by some progressives, including Sanders’ former presidential campaign press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, who is black.
Symone Sanders, a top Biden campaign advisor who is black, defended the former vice president.
“The comments made at the end of the Breakfast Club interview were in jest, 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 tweeted.
On Friday afternoon, Biden walked back his comments, saying on a previously scheduled call with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce, “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
“I know the comments have come off like I was taking the African vote for granted.” Biden said, “but nothing could be further from the truth,” reported NBC News, one of several media outlets invited at the last minute to join the call.
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race their religion their background.”
“I’m prepared to put my record against his. That was the bottom line, and it was, it was really unfortunate. I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
Trump himself came under fire a day earlier for remarks he made to Ford Motor Company CEO Bill Ford during a trip to Michigan.
“In our lifetimes, the company founded by a man named Henry Ford ― good bloodlines, good bloodlines ― if you believe in that stuff,” Trump said in a speech at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. “You got good blood,” he said to Ford, the great-grandson of the company’s founder.
The reason this is problematic is that Henry Ford was among the most influential American anti-Semites of the 20th century.
According to the Henry Ford Museum website: “Convinced that ‘bankers’ and ‘the Jews’ were responsible for a whole range of things he didn’t like, from the world war to short skirts to jazz music, Ford used his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, to carry on an active anti-Semitic campaign.”
Trump also has a long history of racially charged and often divisive language. During the past few years, Trump has claimed there were “good people” among white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries,” and he has accused a U.S.-born federal judge of bias because “he’s a Mexican.”
Prior to running for office, Trump fanned a racist conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Africa and therefore ineligible to serve as president. In the 1970’s, Trump’s family real estate company was sued by the Justice Department, twice, for allegedly discriminating against black prospective tenants.
UPDATE 3:47 p.m. — This story has been updated to include Biden’s comments on a call Friday afternoon.