Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is under fire for participating in a racially charged joke with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at a fundraising event in New York City on April 9.
The incident occurred on Saturday night at the annual Inner Circle charity dinner, a black-tie event with many of New York City’s most prominent politicians and political press. CBC News reports that the event is “an annual media roast of politicians that traditionally ends with New York’s mayor delivering a snarky rebuttal in the form of a rehearsed skit.” The sketch is often accompanied by prominent Broadway actors.
Clinton took the stage for a comedic skit with Mayor de Blasio and actor Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical Hamilton.
Opposing Views posted the transcript of the skit in question.
“The skit began with Clinton ribbing de Blasio for his late endorsement of her presidential run, which came months after the former secretary of state formally announced her campaign.
“‘I just have to say thanks for the endorsement, Bill,’ she said. ‘Took you long enough.’
“‘Sorry Hillary, I was running on C.P. time,’ de Blasio responded, reportedly alluding to the slang term ‘colored people time.’ […]
“The joke was part of the Inner Circle show, an annual comedic performance held by the New York press corps for charity.
“Standing alongside the two political figures was Leslie Odom Jr., one of the stars of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Odom, who is black, appeared to be in the joke.
“‘That’s not — I don’t like jokes like that, Bill,’ Odom said.
“Clinton then turned to him and delivered the punch line: ‘Cautious politician time. I’ve been there.'”
Clinton is facing backlash from the joke, which poked fun at the New York City mayor’s alleged chronic lateness using the phrase “colored people time,” an expression using the negative stereotype of African Americans as always being late.
A video of the sketch was posted to the official YouTube channel of the NYC mayor’s office, which quickly led to an angry social media firestorm. Many commenters considered the joke racially insensitive, offensive, or in poor taste.
The video is embedded below; the joke begins at the 8:30 mark.
Global News reported that the reaction from the media was just as negative as from social media, with many publications criticizing the joke as unfunny, terribly executed, and implicitly racist.
“The New York Daily News blared “Skit for Brains” on its Tuesday front page. Salon called the skit “cringe worthy.” And New York magazine made reference to the mayor’s African-American spouse asking, ‘Does your wife, Chirlane, know about this joke?'”
The gaffe came at a terrible time for Clinton, who has been riding high on the support of the African American vote, particularly in the south. New York voters will head to the polls next week to vote for the Democratic primary election on April 19.
Clinton supporters are worried that her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders will challenge her for the primary in her home state, and perhaps even make inroads with the black community, especially when the former secretary of state has come under scrutiny for her record on race issues in recent weeks, as the Independent reports.
“Critics of the former Secretary of State accuse her of being a key advocate of the 1994 Crime Bill passed by President Bill Clinton that led to the mass incarceration of countless black people. On Thursday, responding to such criticisms from Black Lives Matter activists, Mr Clinton appeared to lose his temper and accused the protesters of supporting murderers and drug dealers.”
For his part, Mayor de Blasio defended the joke and downplayed the ensuing controversy.
“It was clearly a staged event,” he told CNN on Monday. “I think people are missing the point here.”
In a statement on Monday quoted by CBC News, the mayor’s office said, “Let’s be clear, in an evening of satire, the only person this was meant to mock was the mayor himself — period. Certainly no one intended to offend anyone.”
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign referred back to the mayor’s statement when reached out to for comment. A publicist for Hamilton also did not respond to a request for comment.