"You ain't black!" may have dominated the news this week, but it was a mere slice of the gaffe pie baked by Joe Biden last week during an interview on "The Breakfast Club." The presumed Democratic nominee for president spent 18 minutes speaking with Charlemagne tha God and misrepresented himself on nearly every point he attempted to make.
Abruptly cutting the interview, the major candidate for president of the United States was ushered off of the video call by an aide, telling Charlegmagne he had to go because his wife needed to use the studio. Just before disconnecting, in a shot heard round the world, he summed up his message to potential black voters by saying, "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."
The predicted fallout was severe. Even Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), whose endorsement of Biden during early primaries likely solidified his support among black voters, said he "cringed" when he heard Biden's words. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) found his characterization of African Americans to be particularly disturbing.
"I've been black for 54 years," Scott said. "I was struck by the condescension and the arrogance. I could not believe my ears that he would stoop so low." Criticism was widespread and from every direction, while Team Biden tried to fight off the negative press with a defense of his history as being an ally of black Americans.
Biden eventually conceded that he was a "wise guy" in response to Charlemagne also being a "wise guy," but never actually offered an apology for telling an entire race they needed to be Democrats to justify their skin color. Instead, he repeatedly touted his history as a political defender of civil rights and endorsements from minority groups, just as he had done during his short interview on the "The Breakfast Club" before the big "oops."
But Biden's interview claims leading up to his heroically bad sign-off held little more water than asserting all black people should be his supporters. A fact check conducted by FactCheck.org noted that Biden misstated the truth or fabricated parts of his past altogether on several key points.
- Biden falsely suggested that he called for implementing nationwide social distancing restrictions prior to March 8, which Columbia University researchers said could have prevented nearly 36,000 U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 from then until early May.
- He falsely claimed “the NAACP’s endorsed me every time I’ve run” for office. The president and CEO of the national civil rights organization issued a statement saying “the NAACP is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office at any level.”
- Biden exaggerated when he said “I wrote an article” about the coronavirus on Jan. 27 that “said this pandemic’s here.” Biden actually referred to the outbreak as a “global health challenge” and argued that Trump was not prepared to lead the country through “the possibility of a pandemic.”
- He also gave himself too much credit when he said, “I’m the guy that said we ought to … find out exactly how many people in the black community are getting COVID and are dying from it.” On April 9, Biden joined several Democrats who had already called for the federal health department to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on testing and treatment.
On March 9, a day after Biden alleged that he called for social distancing restrictions, he held a rally for about 1,000 people in Detroit, and though he did express concern and cancel a rally the next day, he gave a victory speech for a gathering of about 50 that evening. It wasn't until several days later that Biden announced his recommendation for combatting the Wuhan coronavirus. That plan did not include nationwide lockdowns either.
The NAACP issued its own fact check on Biden's claim that it has consistently endorsed him in his political campaigns. This was one of Biden's strongest pieces of evidence in his claim that all black people should vote for him, or not be considered black.
"I have a record that is second to none," he said of his lifetime alliance with African Americans. "The NAACP's endorsed me every time I've run. I mean, come on, take a look at the record." But the NAACP has not only never endorsed Biden, it's never endorsed any candidate.
Biden has been caught before rewriting his own political history on the campaign trail. In August, he placed himself much closer to a very moving story about a heroic soldier than he really was. More information about that story later turned out to be false or an amalgamation of several stories.
This is also not the first time Biden's spinning of his legacy as a "second to none" advocate for issues important to many black voters has gotten him in trouble. Criticism of Biden for his support for the 1994 Crime Bill continues to follow him, as does his persistent defense of the legislation that many feel was the cause of decades of unfair persecution of black Americans. Biden's representation of the bill and the elements that he championed are often misstated by him, including the assertion that the bill alone cut the US crime rate by 50 percent.
Amid the pandemic and lockdowns, neither Biden nor President Trump has been able to appear before potential voters in a way that is expected during normal election cycles, but Biden has been especially camera shy during the lockdown. Sporadic interviews from his Delaware home are often cut short or only given to very friendly networks and anchors. Virtual "town halls" consist of little more than modified stump speeches and thoroughly filtered questions.
Charlemagne surprised Biden with an actually tough interview asking for candor about his record of representing the interests of black Americans. What he got was 18 minutes of false promises, a fantasy version of Biden's political life, and a castigation for any black person who isn't buying it.