New York mayor defends off-colour joke with Hillary Clinton

Racially charged gag backfires as Democrat forced to defend attempt at political satire

Leslie Odum jnr, from the Broadway musical Hamilton, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and New York  mayor Bill de Blasio perform at the 94th annual Inner Circle Dinner on Saturday. Photograph: David Handschuh/The Inner Circle Via AP

Leslie Odum jnr, from the Broadway musical Hamilton, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and New York mayor Bill de Blasio perform at the 94th annual Inner Circle Dinner on Saturday. Photograph: David Handschuh/The Inner Circle Via AP

 
New York CityHillary Clinton

Mr de Blasio and Mrs Clinton appeared in a political “roast” show at the Inner Circle Show and joked about the delay in the New York Democrat endorsing his party colleague in her presidential bid.

“I just have to say thanks for the endorsement, Bill. Took you long enough,” said Mrs Clinton, setting up the joke by referring to his months-long delay in publicly supporting her presidential campaign.

“Sorry Hillary, I was running on CP time,” Mr de Blasio responded, in what was taken to be a reference to “coloured people time”, the slang term referring to the stereotype that African Americans are typically late.

Leslie Odom jnr, the black actor and lead in the hit Broadway show Hamilton who appeared on stage with the politicians, responded: “That’s not . . . I don’t like jokes like that, Bill.”

“Cautious politician time – I’ve been there,” Mrs Clinton said, jokingly trying to salvage the edgy gag from potentially sensitive ground.

But the damage was done. Left-leaning website Raw Story called the joke “painful”. African-American website the Root described the joke as “cringeworthy”, while conservative website Town Hall said that “it’s only racist if Republicans do it.”

‘Missing the point’

A major victory by the second-time presidential candidate over her rival, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, in the New York primary on April 19th would almost guarantee her victory in the Democratic White House race.

A poll from Monmouth University on Monday gave Mrs Clinton a 51 per cent to 38 per cent lead over Mr Sanders in New York. Another poll, published by the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and Marist, gave both Mrs Clinton and the other front-runner in the election, Republican Donald Trump, double-digit leads in the Empire State. Mr Trump leads his closest rival, Ohio governor John Kasich, by 54 per cent to 21 per cent, while Mrs Clinton has a 14-point lead, beating Mr Sanders by 55 per cent to 41 per cent.

In an attempt to silence speculation he might be parachuted in as an alternative to stop Mr Trump’s securing the nomination at the party’s national convention in July, Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan held a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday to rule himself out as a possible presidential candidate. Commenting on speculation, Mr Ryan said: “I do not want, nor will I accept the Republican nomination”.