HOLBROOK, New York (CNN) — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday defended a racial joke he told Saturday night during a skit with Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, saying critics were “missing the point.”
Clinton was part of a sketch with de Blasio at New York’s Inner Circle dinner on Saturday, a gathering that brings together New York journalists, political operatives and elected officials.
Asked by CNN’s Erin Burnett Monday about the skit, which rankled some on Twitter and elsewhere, de Blasio said the point of his joke was to turn a negative stereotype on its head.
“Every actor involved including Hillary Clinton and Leslie Odom Jr. thought it was a joke on a different convention,” he said. “That was the whole idea of it.”
After de Blasio practiced rapping with Leslie Odom Jr., the “Hamilton” actor who plays Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical, Clinton came out to tease the mayor about how long it took him to endorse her.
“I came out blazing with heavy artillery, for the queen of Democrats, my home girl, Hillary,” the mayor rapped as Clinton appeared on stage.
“I heard my name,” Clinton said. “I just have to say, thanks for the endorsement, Bill. It took you long enough.”
“Sorry Hillary, I was running on CP time,” de Blasio said
Odom responded, “That’s not — I don’t like jokes like that, Bill.”
“Cautious politician time,” Clinton said. “I’ve been there.”
“CP Time” — also known as “colored people’s time” — is a stereotype about African-Americans running late.
“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 Monday.
A spokesperson for de Blasio responded to the flap by noting the skit was satire and not meant to offend.
“Let’s be clear, in an evening of satire, the only person this was meant to mock was the mayor himself,” said the spokesperson said. “Certainly no one intended to offend anyone.”
Bakari Sellers, a CNN contributor and Clinton supporter, said this controversy was “much ado about nothing.”
“We are not worried about jokes that may not be funny,” said Sellers, who is black. “This is not a big deal. It is a big deal that we have to remedy mass incarceration; it is a big deal that we have to remedy African-American wealth. That is what we have to focus on.”