Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday he "shouldn’t have been so cavalier" during an interview with radio host Charlamagne Tha God in which Biden defended his record with the black community and chided the host — in jest, a campaign aide later said — that "if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black."
Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee to face President Donald Trump in November's general election, appeared on The Breakfast Club on Friday morning.
There, the popular radio show host pressed Biden on some of Biden's past positions, such as his support of the so-called crime bill of 1994 — the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act — which many criminal justice advocates argue encouraged mass incarceration of people of color.
"I’ve been critical of you," Charlamagne Tha God, 41, said at the top of the interview.
He went on to probe Biden, 77, about criminal justice and drug issues and Biden's potential running mate and what Biden felt the Democratic Party owed black voters for their overwhelming, lasting support.
Biden's own abiding strength with black voters dramatically reversed his primary chances in early March against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — leading to a string of smashing victories that drove Sanders from the race.
Charlamagne Tha God noted that Friday, saying they had "saved your [Biden's] political life."
Charlamagne Tha God said he believed "Democrats take black voters for granted."
"Vote’s a quid pro quo, right. It’s not like I don’t want to vote," he told Biden. "I just want to know what candidates will do for us and in exchange for our votes."
Biden went on to defend his work — arguing the '94 crime bill did not increase incarceration nationwide, which he said was influenced by other factors, and touting his work with black leaders and their support more broadly.
He also talked about his stance on decriminalizing marijuana, said there were "multiple black women" being considered for his ticket and he pushed back on an idea Charlamagne Tha God put to him that he wasn't offering enough leadership to contrast with Trump during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Charlamagne Tha God reportedly said, "Black people have invested a lot into [Democrats] and the return on investment has not been great. … So let's see what you got. Votes are quid pro quo. You can't possibly want me to fear Trump more than I want something for my people."
Speaking on MSNBC later Friday, Rev. Al Sharpton said that what Biden said was "inappropriate." He criticized parts of Biden's history and praised others, such as Biden's work to reduce the federal prison population.
"Deal with the record and don’t say things in jest, that’s inappropriate, and people can be black and still make wrong political decisions. But Charlamagne Tha God is not one of them," Sharpton said.
Symone Sanders, a Biden senior aide, appeared on MSNBC on Friday as well and said that Biden's comments "were said in jest."
"What Vice President Biden was saying is: He will put his record and his track record up with the African-American community and in the African-American community up against Donald Trump any single day, period. There is no comparison," she said.
On a call Friday with the U.S. Black Chambers, Biden said: "The bottom line of all this is perhaps I was much too cavalier. I know that the comments have come off like I was taking the African-American vote for granted. But nothing could be further from the truth. I've never ever done that and I've earned it every time I've run."
"I shouldn't have been such a wise guy," he said.
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