The White House defended Hillary Clinton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for their records on civil rights as the two Democrats received scrutiny for delivering a racially charged joke at a weekend event.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that he had not heard the joke that Clinton and de Blasio delivered in New York City but made the point of championing their "genuine commitment" to civil rights issues, The Hill reported.
"Mayor de Blasio and Secretary Clinton have, over the course of their career, demonstrated a genuine commitment to the pursuit of equality and justice and civil rights," Earnest said.
"I can’t speak to any misguided attempts at humor," Earnest continued. "I can only speak to their commitment they have shown over the course of their career to justice and civil rights."
Clinton and de Blasio were met with criticism after they performed a skit at the annual Inner Circle show in New York City alongside Leslie Odom Jr., who is black and plays Aaron Burr in the production "Hamilton."
"Thanks for the endorsement," Clinton told de Blasio, who formally endorsed her for president in October. "Took you long enough."
"Sorry, Hillary. I was running on C.P. Time," de Blasio replied, using a phrase that often denotes "colored people time," which perpetuates the stereotype of black people running late.
"That’s not–I don’t like jokes like that, Bill," Odom, who appeared to be in on the joke, told the New York City mayor.
"‘Cautious Politician Time.’ I’ve been there," Clinton then said.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) April 12, 2016
Many have slammed the joke as racist. During an appearance on CNN Monday, de Blasio defended the joke and indicated that people were missing its point.
"It was clearly a staged show. It was a scripted show and the whole idea was to do the counter-intuitive and say, ‘cautious politician time,’" de Blasio said.
Clinton has spent recent days in New York campaigning ahead of the April 19 primary contest there. Recent polls have shown Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York, with a double-digit advantage over her competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).