Democratic White House candidate Joe Biden has said in an interview African Americans “ain’t black” if they vote for President Donald Trump over him.
The controversial exchange happened as radio host Charlamagne Tha God pressed the former vice-president on Friday about his outreach to black voters.
When an aide for Mr Biden tried to end the interview, Charlamagne said: “You can’t do that to black media.”
Loyal support from black voters has been vital to Mr Biden’s candidacy.
What exactly did Biden say?
Throughout the 18-minute interview, Mr Biden, 77, stressed his longstanding ties to the black community, noting his overwhelming win this year in South Carolina’s presidential primary, a state where the Democratic electorate is more than 60% African American.
“I won every single county. I won the largest share of the black vote that anybody had, including Barack,” he said of President Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president, who picked Mr Biden as his running mate.
Mr Biden also “guaranteed” that several black women were being considered to serve as his vice-president. The presumptive nominee has already committed to selecting a woman to join him on the Democratic ticket.
Toward the end of the interview, a campaign aide interrupted to say the former vice-president was out of time.
“I do that to white media and black media,” Mr Biden replied when Charlamagne protested.
“My wife has to go on at 6 o’clock,” he said, apparently referring to Jill Biden needing to use their at-home broadcast studio.
Charlamagne urged Mr Biden to return for an additional interview, saying he had more questions.
“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Mr Biden responded.
Charlamagne said: “It don’t have nothing to do with Trump. It has to do with the fact that I want something for my community.”
“Take a look at my record, man!” Biden said, throwing his hands in the air, seconds before concluding the interview.
Biden trips an electrical live wire
Joe Biden just touched a live electrical wire of racial identity in US politics.
Until now his support among black voters has been rock-solid, and there’s little chance Friday’s line will do much by itself to dent that. The Trump campaign will be happy, however, if they can chip away even a sliver of Mr Biden’s support, particularly in key electoral states like Wisconsin and Michigan, where black voter apathy hurt Democrats in 2016.
Mr Biden’s gaffe came at the end of an interview, as he was being pressed on whether he favoured Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar over a black woman as his running mate. That he responded with indignation – and then veered dangerously off-script – suggests his preference might lie with someone like Ms Klobuchar, who shares Mr Biden’s pragmatic political sensibilities.
If Friday’s kerfuffle has staying power, however, he might feel compelled to pick a black female candidate like Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams – if only to clean up the mess he created.
How is the Biden camp trying to contain the damage?
Biden campaign adviser Symone Sanders defended the comments on Friday, saying they were made “in jest”.
“Let’s be clear about what the VP was saying: he was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump’s any day. Period.”
Mr Biden endeavoured to make amends on a call later to black business leaders.
“I should not have been so cavalier,” he said. “I’ve never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted.”
He added: “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”
He continued: “No-one should have to vote for any party based on their race, their religion, their background.”
What’s the reaction?
The Trump campaign seized on the remarks, calling the exchange “disgusting”.
“That is the most arrogant, condescending comment I’ve heard in a very long time,” said Senator Tim Scott, a black Republican, on Fox News.
“He’s saying that 1.3 million African Americans, that you’re not black? Who in the heck does he think he is?” the South Carolina lawmaker said, referring to the black Americans who voted for Mr Trump in 2016.
Mr Biden’s words also incited criticism from his side of the aisle.
Keith Boykin, a professor at Columbia and former aide to Democratic President Bill Clinton, called Mr Biden’s comments “a mistake”.
“Yes, Biden is a much better choice for black people than racist Trump,” Mr Boykin wrote on Twitter.
“But white people don’t get to tell black people what is black. Biden still has to EARN our vote.”
Why is Biden popular among black voters?
Mr Biden’s long political career has been bolstered by enduring support from African Americans, fortified by the eight years he spent serving alongside Mr Obama – who remains hugely popular out of office.
A Quinnipiac University poll released this week showed Mr Biden’s support among black voters at a stunning 81%, compared with 3% for Mr Trump. The remainder said they didn’t know.
Mr Obama endorsed his former vice-president last month, saying in a video that Mr Biden “has all the qualities we need in a president right now”.