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NAACP president says Biden cannot take African American vote for granted

NAACP leader on Biden and black voters

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said on CBSN Friday that Joe Biden should not assume he has the full support of the African American community during the election. "You cannot take the African American vote for granted," Johnson told CBSN's Reena Ninan in response to Biden's remark that if black voters are undecided between him and President Trump, then they "ain't black." 

In a Friday morning interview with Charlamagne Tha God on the popular radio show "The Breakfast Club," Biden argued that his presidential campaign was doing enough to reach out to black voters. 

"If you have trouble figuring out if you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black," Biden said. 

Johnson acknowledged that Biden has significant support in the African American community, but said the presumptive nominee should work to maintain that critical support. "You either win or lose with the support of the African American community," he said. 

When asked if Biden should apologize for his comments, Johnson said the Biden campaign should take the backlash as a "lesson" moving forward. "In order for his campaign to win he must garner more support from the African American community, and those comments take away from that," he said. 

"If his campaign is not taking that serious at this juncture, there's a lot of questions that still need to be answered," he said.

In the appearance with Charlamagne, the host asked Biden if he believes Democrats take black voters for granted, and Biden noted that he had overwhelmingly won the black vote in the South Carolina primary. 

"I won every single county. I won the largest share of the black vote that anybody had, including Barack," he said. But despite Biden's past victories, Johnson said the Biden campaign has "more work" to do. 

"We cannot take the black vote for granted. It is the vote that brought him this far — I think he recognizes that, and there has to be stronger preparation when you go on platforms like 'The Breakfast Club,' because it is an aggressive platform, but it's also a platform where many a millennial and younger African American voters listen to, and it will and can leave an impression."

After Johnson's interview, Biden expressed regret about his remarks, saying he "should not have been so cavalier" on the show. "I've never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted," he said. 

Biden's senior adviser Symone D. Sanders wrote on Twitter that his comments "were in jest."

"He was making the distinction that he would put his record with the African American community up against Trump's any day. Period," she said. 

Johnson also spoke about the NAACP's We Are Done Dying campaign that encourages people to contact their representatives if they are frustrated by the disparity of deaths and economic inequality suffered by the African American community. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "as of April 18, when comparing to residents who live in COVID-NET counties, non-Hispanic Black people were disproportionately hospitalized with COVID-19."

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The NAACP's campaign was launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Johnson said its need has been tragically reaffirmed by the shooting deaths of African Americans Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor

"Recent incidents are reminiscent of an atrocious era of hate and domestic terrorism where police officers and white protesters routinely brutalized African-Americans," reads the organization's website. "The senseless death displays the continuance of systematic racism and privilege granted to white people in America."

Johnson said he wishes public health experts, not politicians, would lead a national conversation about the disproportionate effect the pandemic has taken on the communities of color. 

"We are losing individuals for reasons that can be avoided," he said.

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