House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American lawmaker, said Tuesday he “cringed” when he heard former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE’s remark that “you ain’t black” regarding people who vote for President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE.
But Clyburn, a top Biden surrogate, defended the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, saying no one — including himself — is perfect.
“I cringed, no question about that,” Clyburn said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” when co-host Whoopi GoldbergWhoopi GoldbergBill Maher hits back at Whoopi Goldberg over 'Black national anthem' Whoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE asked about Biden’s gaffe.
“In this instance, Joe did not do as well as I had hoped in responding, but I will say this: I go about my business every day comparing Joe Biden to the alternative — not the almighty,” Clyburn continued.
“He is not a perfect person, none of us are, so my decision now is to determine who I feel should be the next president of the United States, and I do that by comparing the candidates to each other, not to the almighty," he said.
Biden was forced to apologize last week after telling Charlamagne tha God during his "The Breakfast Club" radio show that "if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black."
Republicans and even some Democrats blasted the remarks as “racist” and offensive, accusing Biden of taking the black vote for granted. And hours after uttering them, Biden retreated, saying he “shouldn't have been such a wise guy. I shouldn't have been so cavalier."
Clyburn has been credited with Biden's primary win. His endorsement of the former vice president helped turn out African American voters and propel Biden to victory in the South Carolina primary, a turning point that forced rivals to drop out and gave Biden a wave of momentum heading into Super Tuesday.
On “The View,” Clyburn sought to defuse some of the criticism at Biden by turning the tables on Goldberg.
“Look, he’s not a perfect person; all of us have misspoken. I am a great admirer of Whoopi Goldberg. I loved her for a long long time. I can remember a few times when she was a little bit skittish and apologized in her own way for saying things,” Clyburn said, eliciting smiles from Goldberg and her co-hosts. “I do it all the time. We sometimes say things we do not really mean; they come out a little bit wrong, and that’s what happened here."
Biden “knows the African American community very well,” Clyburn added. “I’ve done a lot of stuff for Joe Biden over the years and I would not have supported him if I did not think he was best suited to be the next president of the United States.”
Later in the interview, Clyburn doubled down on his position that it’s “not a must” for Biden to pick an African American running mate. Biden has already committed to selecting a woman.
“There should be polling. There should be vetting. And he should be instructed by the polling and the vetting, and he should be guided by his heart and his head,” Clyburn said. “And so that is as far as I wish to go with telling him how to conduct himself going forward."
“We are all human beings. We are all sensitive about our own thinking apparatus and none of us want to be told what you must do. I don’t like that at all, and I would never tell that to anybody," he said.