Joe Biden, whose presidential bid was buoyed in the primary by support from African Americans, came under scrutiny Friday for telling a radio host that black people who were considering voting for President Donald Trump "ain't black."
The comments by the former vice president came at the end of a spirited interview with Charlamagne Tha God, a host of the popular radio show "The Breakfast Club." A top campaign aide said Biden was joking, but Republicans quickly seized on the statement and some black Democrats expressed concern that the remark could turn off a crucial voting bloc for the presumptive Democratic nominee.
"He's not making it easy to engage black voters. It's an alienating comment," said Aimee Allison, a San Francisco Bay Area political strategist and founder of She the People, a group that promotes women of color in politics. "You've got to take us seriously, you have to show respect. You can't diminish the importance of 25% of the voting base of the Democratic Party."
In a subsequent call Friday with black business owners, Biden said he shouldn't have been "so cavalier" in his remarks.
"I have never, ever, ever taken the African American community for granted ... I shouldn't have been such a wise guy," he said.
During the roughly 20-minute interview, Charlamagne pressed Biden on his record on criminal justice and the likelihood of picking a black woman to be his vice president.
Pointing to recent reports that Biden is vetting Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is white, to be his running mate, the radio host asked about calls for Biden to put a black woman on the ticket, noting that "black people saved your political life in the primaries this year."
Biden demurred on naming specific candidates but said "there are multiple black women being considered. Multiple."
After a campaign aide cut in to end the interview, the radio host asked Biden to commit to returning for another interview, noting it was "a long way until November" and he still had more questions for the candidate.
Biden agreed but added: "You've got more questions. But I tell you, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."