Biden faces backlash for comparing diversity in African American, Latino communities

President Trump seized on the comments as "a very insulting statement."

August 6, 2020, 11:02 PM

Former Vice President Joe Biden has sought to clean up comments he made comparing diversity in African American and Latino communities during an interview released Thursday.

He was asked about his view toward normalizing relations with Cuba and pivoted into an explanation of his belief on the differences of opinion between the two communities.

"And by the way, what you all know but most people don't know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things. You go to Florida you find a very different attitude about immigration in certain places than you do when you're in Arizona. So it's a very different, a very diverse community," Biden told a panel of journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists-National Association of Hispanic Journalists 2020 virtual convention.

Thursday night, the former vice president tweeted a clarification.

"In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith -- not by identity, not on issues, not at all. Throughout my career I've witnessed the diversity of thought, background, and sentiment within the African American community. It's this diversity that makes our workplaces, communities, and country a better place," Biden tweeted more than 12 hours after his initial comments were streamed.

"My commitment to you is this: I will always listen, I will never stop fighting for the African American community and I will never stop fighting for a more equitable future," he continued.

President Donald Trump quickly seized on the comments Thursday afternoon, telling reporters that the remarks were "incredible."

"I just watched a clip and Joe Biden this morning totally disparaged and insulted the Black community," Trump said. "I don't know what's going on with him, but it was a very insulting statement he made."

The Biden campaign also tried to clarify Biden's comments Thursday afternoon, stressing that Biden was referring to a diversity of outlooks on immigration policy within the Latino community.

"If you look at the full video and transcript, it's clear that Vice President Biden was referring to diversity of attitudes among Latinos from different Latin American countries. The video that is circulating is conveniently cut to make this about racial diversity but that's not the case," Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden told ABC News.

Despite the campaign's comments, Biden again compared the diversity of Latino and African American communities geographically during remarks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.

"We can build a new administration that reflects the full diversity of our nation. The full diversity of Latino communities. And when I mean full diversity, unlike the African American community and many other communities, you're from everywhere. From Europe, from the tip of South America, all the way to our border and Mexico and in the Caribbean. And different backgrounds, different ethnicities, but all Latinos, we're gonna get a chance to do that if we win in November," Biden said Thursday afternoon.

The presumptive Democratic nominee also faced blowback for comments he made in May during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club," which some argued reflect the same attitude Biden expressed in his appearance at the panel that aired Thursday morning.

"Well, I'll tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't Black," Biden told radio personality Charlamagne tha God, who hosts the program -- particularly popular among young Black Americans.

The former vice president later apologized for the comments, saying that he was too "cavalier" with his language and insisted that he does not take their support for granted.

Biden has long touted his support in the African American community, which helped propel him to a landslide victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, jumpstarting his campaign and placing him on the path to becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.

That support, however, has placed increased pressure on him to show his commitment to the African American community -- particularly in discussions around his long-awaited vice presidential pick, with Democrats urging Biden to choose a woman of color to join him on the ticket.

In this July 28, 2020, file photo, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech at the William Hicks Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware.
Mark Makela/Getty Images, FILE

Despite the repeated calls, Biden has not committed to the idea, but has continually promised that his administration will "look like the country" in its makeup.

The controversy sparked by the latest comments also come as the Biden campaign announced specific advertising investments to woo African American voters, including a new national ad released Thursday specifically targeting Black voters.

"Just like our ancestors, who stood up to the violent racists of a generation ago, we will stand up to this president, and say, 'no more,'" the narrator of the new ad, which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), BET, TV1, CNN and MSNBC.

As part of their newly announced $280 million television and digital advertising reservations for the fall, the Biden campaign included a specific slate of investments targeting Black voters that they say is a "bold statement about the seriousness of our efforts to reach Black voters and earn their vote in this election."

Despite his reelection campaign's efforts to amplify the comments and claim that he's "done more for African Americans than any president with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln," Trump has a long history of controversial comments regarding race.

During a January 2018 meeting regarding immigration, Trump reportedly grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from "s---hole countries" like some in Africa coming to the United States, multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion told ABC News at the time.

The president also drew widespread criticism recently when he retweeted a video that showed one of his supporters in Florida yelling "white power!" Trump took down the retweet later that day, and the White House argued he was unaware of the offensive content it contained.

ABC News' Mary Bruce contributed to this report.

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