The presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party’s 2020 nomination for president appeared on The Breakfast Club, the syndicated radio show of host Charlamagne tha God. Specifically, the former vice president, who has a history of making remarks about race that have not landed particularly well, as well as a legislative history with thorny race-related issues, spoke to the host about his record on race.
Near the end of the interview, the host appeared to be getting frustrated with a Biden aide’s attempt to end the interview. As Biden started explaining why he had to leave, the host told Biden to come back for a later interview, saying, “we’ve got more questions.”
Biden responded with what some analysts are taking as an ill-thought-out gaffe.
“You’ve got more questions? Well, I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden said.
“It don’t have nothing to do with Trump, it has to do with the fact [that] I want something for my community,” Charlamagne retorted.
Biden, in response, referenced the positive points on his record on race, including his vote to extend the Voting Rights Act and the fact that the NAACP has endorsed him every time he ran.
Joe Biden: "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) May 22, 2020
The interview had been contentious even before its awkward ending.
The host repeatedly questioned the former vice president on his support for the 1994 Crime Bill, which Biden helped craft. Among other things, the Clinton-era legislation, meant to address a violent crime epidemic ongoing at the time, imposed the so-called “three strikes” rule for repeat offenders.
That and other provisions of the bill have been seen as largely having a disproportionate affect on the African American community, including being partially responsible for the problem of mass incarceration, which also disproportionately affects the black community.
Charlamagne repeatedly tried to get Biden to admit that the legislation was “damaging to the black community.”
The exchange that coincided with a Biden aide’s attempt to end the interview also involved race. Charlamagne referenced rumors that Biden may be looking at a black female running mate. Biden responded that there are “multiple black women being considered,” after which an aide could be heard saying, “That’s really our time. I apologize.”
When the host became upset that Biden was apparently attempting to end the interview early, Biden responded that he was on a tight schedule and that his wife, Jill Biden, was also due to appear for an interview.