ATLANTA -- Joe Biden declared he "should not have been so cavalier" on Friday after he told a prominent black radio host that black Americans who back President Donald Trump "ain't black."
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee quickly moved to address the fallout from his remark, which was interpreted by some as presuming black Americans would vote for him. In a call with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never "take the African-American community for granted."
"I shouldn't have been such a wise guy," Biden said. "No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background."
That was an acknowledgment of the criticism he received in response to his comments, which he made on The Breakfast Club, a radio program that is popular in the black community.
The rebukes spanned from allies of President Donald Trump's reelection campaign to some activists who warned that Biden must still court black votes.
"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 Biden's appearance on the radio program, host Charlamagne Tha God pressed him on reports that he is considering Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is white, to be his vice presidential running mate. The host told Biden black voters "saved your political life in the primaries" and "have things they want from you."
Biden said that "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."
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."
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, a Trump supporter and the Senate's sole black Republican, said he was "shocked and surprised" by Biden's remarks.
"I was struck by the condescension and the arrogance in his comments," Scott said in a conference call arranged by the Trump campaign. "I could not believe my ears that he would stoop so low to tell folks what they should do, how they should think, and what it means to be black."
Black voters helped resurrect Biden's campaign in this year's primaries with a second-place finish in the Nevada caucuses and a resounding win in the South Carolina primary after he'd started with embarrassing finishes in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire.
There is a risk, however, of black voters, especially those who are younger, staying home in November, which could complicate Biden's path to victory in a tight election. The Breakfast Club is a particularly notable venue for Biden's comments because the program is popular among younger black Americans.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, a national organization that works to mobilize black voters, said many black Americans are loyal Biden supporters. But she said his comments make it harder to attract people who are on the fence about voting.
"The first thing I thought about was, to what degree did this just turn off those voters and how much more work the rest of us are going to have to do to convince people that it is worth their time and their efforts," she said.
Biden's selection of a running mate, along with his pledge to appoint the first black female Supreme Court justice, could help motivate voters. He's begun vetting vice-presidential contenders, a process he's said likely will last through July.
Information for this article was contributed by Jill Colvin, Hannah Fingerhut and Will Weissert of The Associated Press.
A Section on 05/23/2020
Print Headline: 'Ain't black' remark swats Biden