Biden Says He Was ‘Cavalier’ in Remarks on Black Voter Support
(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden said Friday he should not have been “cavalier” about support from African Americans and insisted he does not take black voters for granted after a backlash over his comments earlier in the day that if a voter is still undecided, “you ain’t black.”
“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” he said on a call with the U.S. Black Chamber on Friday afternoon. “I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”
He added: ”No one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background.”
In an interview with radio personality Charlamagne the God, host of the popular, minority-focused Breakfast Club radio show, Biden said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black.”
The comments were quickly condemned by both Democrats and Republicans.
“Whether it was appropriate for the vice president to address it in the way that he did, he’s fairly clear he should not have,” said Democrat Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPac.
Shropshire said Biden did not make the case for why black voters should support him, failing to outline his agenda and policies that would attract listeners of the radio show.
Surrogates for President Donald Trump called the comments by the presumptive Democratic nominee “racist and dehumanizing.” They come a day after Trump was also criticized for remarks around race at a Ford Motor Co. plant in Michigan.
“I’d say I’m surprised, but it’s sadly par for the course for Democrats to take the black community for granted and browbeat those that don’t agree,” Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina tweeted Friday.
Biden has overwhelming support from black voters, who resuscitated his candidacy in the South Carolina primary, partly from his role as President Barack Obama’s vice president.
Biden senior adviser Symone Sanders tweeted that his comments were made in “jest.”
“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 wrote.
Trump won 8% of the black vote in 2016.
“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,” Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign senior adviser, said in a statement issued by “Black Voices for Trump.”
“Frankly I would love to have a policy contrast with Joe Biden and President Trump on the things that we’ve been able to accomplish,” Scott said in a conference call he and Pierson held with reporters.
On Thursday, during a visit to a Ford plant that makes ventilators, Trump praised Henry Ford, who was openly racist and anti-Semitic.
Trump said Ford has “good bloodlines, good bloodlines, if you believe in that stuff.” That prompted a tweet from Anti-Defamation League Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt, who said that Ford was an “anti-Semite and one of America’s staunchest proponents of eugenics,” and demanded an apology from Trump.
In December, Jewish groups blasted Trump for remarks at the Israeli American Council National Summit, where he suggested Jews had “no choice” but to vote for him.
“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well,” Trump said. “You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice. You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don’t like me; some of you don’t. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes, if they get it.”
J-Street, a liberal Jewish-advocacy group, said the president is “incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without” delving into “anti-Semitic tropes.”
Trump’s campaign has made a concerted effort to draw black support away from Democrats, forming the Black Voices for Trump segment.
Many African Americans consider Trump to be racist and his support among black voters does not appear to have budged appreciably since 2016, according to a January poll by The Washington Post and Ipsos.
Just before Biden made the comment about black voters in the Breakfast Club interview, Charlamagne pressed him on whether he would pick a black running mate, given the boost he received from that constituency in the primary. He has promised it would be a woman, and Representative Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement in South Carolina helped Biden win there, has asked that his running mate be “a woman of color.”
“I guarantee you there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple,” Biden said.
The interview also touched on Biden’s support for the 1994 crime bill, blamed for enacting sentencing rules that disproportionately targeted black defendants.
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