The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden seeks to tamp down controversy over remarks about black support

The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden seeks to tamp down controversy over remarks about black support
© Greg Nash

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races.

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We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail. 



Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Myanmar military conducts violent night raids Confidence in coronavirus vaccines has grown with majority now saying they want it MORE is on clean-up duty after igniting a controversy this morning on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” hosted by Charlamagne Tha God.

Over the course of the 18-minute long interview, Charlamagne pressed Biden on his opposition to legalizing marijuana and past support for crime bills that led to the mass incarceration of black people.

But most of the news came as the interview wound down, and Charlamagne told Biden that he hoped they could continue the discussion at some later point.

“You’ve got more questions?” Biden replied. “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black."

The remarks were first met with outrage from Republicans, such as Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottWhy paid internships matter for foreign policy careers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Sole GOP vote on House police reform bill says he 'accidentally pressed the wrong voting button' MORE (R-S.C.) and Katrina Pierson, who leads the group ‘Black Voices for Trump.’

They accused Biden of lecturing black people on how to think and of questioning the racial authenticity of conservative black voters.


“It is clear now more than ever, following these racist and dehumanizing remarks, that Joe Biden believes black men and women are incapable of being independent or free thinking,” Pierson said. “He truly believes that he, a 77-year-old white man, should dictate how black people should behave.”

Biden campaign spokeswoman Symone SandersSymone SandersSunday shows preview: CDC school reopening guidance stirs debate; Texas battles winter freeze White House says teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen CNN's John Berman chides White House aide on reopening schools: 'Not a trick question' MORE initially defended the remarks, saying they were “made in jest” and pointed to Biden’s strong support among black voters, who delivered him resounding victories in primary states across the country.

But over the course of the day, the remarks drew blowback from the left, with former top Obama administration aide Patrick Gaspard saying Biden “is in no position to determine who is black enough or not.” 

"Pure unadulterated hubris, the taking for granted of the black vote, the insult to us as he tried to quote on quote answer that question in a black vernacular,” Nina Turner, a prominent surrogate for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage, implying that it's sexist Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Schumer insists Democrats unified after chaotic coronavirus debate MORE’s (I-Vt.) president campaign, told the progressive media outlet Status Coup.

In a hastily arranged afternoon phone call with black business leaders, Biden said he regrets the remarks.

“I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy. I shouldn’t have been so cavalier,” Biden said.

“I don’t take it for granted at all and no one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion or their background. There are African Americans who think Trump is worth voting for. I don’t think so, I’m prepared to put my record against his. That was the bottom line and it was really unfortunate, I shouldn’t have been so cavalier.”

"The Breakfast Club" was a popular stop for the Democratic White House hopefuls during the primary. 

But some, such as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (D-Mass.) ran into problems under directing questioning from Charlamagne. Charlamagne called Warren “the original Rachel Dolezal” for having claimed Native American heritage.

Read the full story by Jonathan Easley.


Biden regrets remarks about black support: 'I shouldn't have been such a wise guy', by Jonathan

African American figures slam Biden on 'you ain't black' comments, by J. Edward Moreno 

Trump lashes out at Fox News after poll shows him trailing Biden, by Brett Samuels


Liz Peek: Lies, damned lies and the truth about Joe Biden.

Sean Parnell: National popular vote would not diminish politics.


Activists are ramping up pressure on Biden to choose a running mate who reflects their ideology and identity, The Hill’s Niall Stanage reports. Some of that pressure is coming from progressives who want to see the former vice president choose a running mate who can excite the party’s liberal base. Others are pushing for Biden to pick a black woman as an acknowledgement of the vastly important role African Americans play in his political coalition. But a decision is still likely weeks away. Biden has said that he hopes to have potential running mates vetted by July with a final decision coming sometime after that.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote The eight Democrats who voted 'no' on minimum wage Justice Democrats call moderates' votes against minimum wage hike 'unconscionable' MORE (D-N.H.) declined to be vetted as one of Biden’s potential running mates as his team begins the process of screening prospective vice presidential candidates, The Hill’s Marina Pitofsky reports. An earlier report from CNN said that her decision to forego the vetting process stemmed from her desire to stay in the Senate.



Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerAdvocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee Bipartisan bill would ban lawmakers from buying, selling stocks MORE said she is not dropping out of the Georgia Senate special election despite facing scrutiny over $20 million in stock sales she made following a closed-door Senate briefing in January about the coronavirus. “Not only am I not dropping out, but I'm gonna win,” Loeffler told Politico on Thursday. Loeffler has denied any wrongdoing in her stock trading, saying that the transactions were made by an independent third-part adviser. Edward has more. 

Texas Democrats are gunning for control of the Texas state House this year, pointing to recent gains in the legislature and changing demographics of the state as evidence that a majority in the chamber is within reach, The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reports. If Democrats were to take control of the state House, it would bolster their role in shaping congressional and state legislative districts when new political maps are drawn next year. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote MORE (R-Ky.) promised to bring a major outdoor recreation bill to the floor next month, delivering a boost to Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSusan Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE (R-Mont.), two GOP incumbents who are facing tough reelection bids in November, The Hill’s Alex Bolton reports. The bill would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps protect the habitats of endangered species, develop parks and outdoor recreation sites and protect sensitive forests. 



Biden: 48 percent (+6)

Trump: 40 percent (-2)



(Keep in mind these dates could change because of the outbreak.)

May 22:

Hawaii Democratic primary

June 2:

District of Columbia primaries

Indiana primaries

Maryland primaries

Montana primaries

New Mexico primaries

Pennsylvania primaries

Rhode Island primaries

South Dakota primaries

June 9:

Georgia primaries

West Virginia primaries

June 23:

Kentucky primaries

July 7:

New Jersey primaries

Delaware primary

July 11:


July 14:

Alabama Republican Senate primary runoff

August 11:

Connecticut primary

August 17-20:

Democratic National Convention

August 24-27:

Republican National Convention


Over the past few weeks, we’ve told you about celebrities giving back to their hometowns and states amid the coronavirus pandemic. You may recall rapper Eminem’s foundation giving first responders in Detroit spaghetti meals last month. 

On Thursday, actor Matthew McConaughey became the latest celebrity to help those in need, posting a picture of himself and his wife on Facebook wearing masks with the caption "[H]itting the road to get em to rural hospitals in need across Texas.”

McConaughey announced in the same post that the car company Lincoln, a corporation the actor has partnered with for commercials in the past, donated 110,000 masks. 

The actor’s donation comes after the state’s Agriculture Commissioner requested emergency funding for the state’s rural hospitals. 

We’ll see you on Tuesday for the latest campaign news and updates. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone!