Biden says 'you ain’t black' if you’d vote for Trump over him; uproar ensues
By TODD J. GILLMAN | The Dallas Morning News | Published: May 23, 2020
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Former Vice President Joe Biden prompted an uproar Friday when he insisted that if any black voter doesn’t see him as the obvious pick over Donald Trump, “you ain’t black.”
The Trump campaign pounced, arguing that this was no ordinary gaffe but an outrageous instance of race-baiting and condescension from the likely nominee of a party that both relies on black voters and at times takes that support for granted.
“This was racially demeaning,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior advisor to Trump's campaign and former Dallas-area tea party leader. “It's very disturbing….He truly believes that a 77 year old white man should be able to dictate whether or not you're black, based upon whether you support him or not.”
The hashtags #youaintblack and #JoeBidenIsARacist exploded.
The Trump campaign hastily organized a call with media to hear from Pierson and another prominent black supporter, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
“I was struck by the condescension and the arrogance,” Scott said, calling on Democrats to disavow the comments. “That is as arrogant and offensive and demeaning as I can imagine….This is the type of negative race baiting rhetoric that is the lowest denominator in this nation, and it's got to stop.”
Biden’s comment came during a testy exchange with a prominent black radio host, Charlamagne Tha God, pressed him on reports that he is considering Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is white, as his running mate even though black voters "saved your political life in the primaries."
Indeed, Biden’s campaign was foundering by the time the South Carolina primary came around. The majority of Democrats there are black, and he scored a solid win after embarrassing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the electorates are overwhelmingly white.
Biden responded by insisting that he is considering “multiple black women.”
Among those, reportedly, are Sen. Kamala Harris of California; Stacey Abrams, who lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018; and former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice.
Voters who compare his record to Trump’s, Biden said, should have no trouble picking him.
"If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black,” he said.
Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden, tried to tamp down the uproar by saying his comment was "made in jest."
"He was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump's any day. Period,” she tweeted.
Scott said he wouldn’t dignify that spin with a response.
Biden’s self-inflicted wound was a gift to the reelection effort of a president who has long faced allegations of racism, overt and otherwise.
As a developer in New York City in 1989, he advocated loudly for execution of the Central Park Five, the five black and Latino men who as teenagers were wrongly convicted in the brutal rape of a woman who’d gone jogging in the park. As president he refused to apologize for that stance, despite their exoneration.
When white supremacists clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., early in his term, he insisted that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Black activists and political leaders viewed it as racist when Trump referred to a “shithole countries" in Africa, and insisted that four Democratic congresswomen of color should "go back" to where they come from, even though all are U.S. citizens and three were born in the U.S.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Trump ally, joined in on the public disapproval.
“This is the respect that today’s Dems show African Americans. The other party, the party of Lincoln, welcomes everybody and values you as individuals, free to choose your own faith, your education, your profession, your savings, your life,” he tweeted.
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Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill, on Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Washington. Responding to former Vice President Joe Biden's comment that "you ain't black," if you support President Donald Trump, Scott said he was “shocked and surprised” by the remark. “I thought to myself, as an African American, been black for 54 years, I was struck by the condescension and the arrogance in his comments."
MANUEL BALCE CENETA/AP
Katrina Pierson, a senior advisor to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. speaks during a Women for Trump event in Troy, Mich., on Aug. 22, 2019. Pierson, who is black, reacted on Friday, May 22, 2020, to former Vice President Joe Biden's comment that "you ain't black" if you choose Trump over Biden. "He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how Black people should behave," Pierson said.