Joe Biden has declared he “should not have been so cavalier” on Friday when he told a prominent black radio host that African Americans who back President Donald Trump “ain’t black”.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee quickly moved to address the fallout from his remark.
In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce, added to his initial public schedule, Mr Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted”.
.@JoeBiden: "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black." @cthagod: "It don't have nothing to do with Trump, it has to do with the fact — I want something for my community." @breakfastclubam pic.twitter.com/endvWnOIV2
— America Rising (@AmericaRising) May 22, 2020
That was an acknowledgement of the stinging criticism he received in response to his comments, which he made on The Breakfast Club, a radio programme that is popular in the black community.
The rebukes spanned from allies of Trump’s re-election campaign to some black activists, who warned that Mr Biden still must court black votes, even if African Americans do overwhelmingly oppose the President.
“None of us can afford for the party or for this campaign to mess this election up, and comments like these are the kinds that frankly either make black voters feel like we’re not really valued and people don’t care if we show up or not,” said Alicia Garza, a Black Lives Matter co-founder and principal of Black Futures Lab.
Near the end of Mr Biden’s appearance on the radio programme, host Charlamagne Tha God pressed him on reports that he is considering Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is white, to be his vice presidential running mate.
The host told Mr Biden that black voters “saved your political life in the primaries” and “have things they want from you”.
Mr Biden said: “I guarantee you there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple.”
A Biden aide then sought to end the interview, prompting the host to say: “You can’t do that to black media.”
Mr Biden responded “I do that to black media and white media” and said his wife needed to use the television studio.
He then added: “If you’ve got a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or for Trump, then you ain’t black.”
The comments came at a critical point in the presidential campaign as Mr Biden tries to revive the multi-racial and multi-generational coalition that twice elected Barack Obama, whom he served as vice president.
He has already committed to picking a woman as his running mate and is considering several African American contenders who could energise black voters. But with black voters already opposed to Mr Trump, Mr Biden is also considering candidates such as Ms Klobuchar.
Trump’s campaign and his allies, on the defensive for weeks over Mr Trump’s response to the pandemic, immediately seized on Mr Biden’s comments.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, a Trump supporter and the Senate’s sole black Republican, said he was “shocked and surprised” by Mr Biden’s remarks.