Washington, April 13: Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton distanced herself on Tuesday from a racial joke she participated in with New York city Mayor Bill de Blasio over the weekend.
In the skit at the city's annual Inner Circle charity show, de Blasio said he took so long to endorse Clinton for president because he was running on "CP time", an apparent reference to the stereotype of African-Americans being late for appointments.
Clinton then interjected: "Cautious politician time. I've been there."
"Well, look, it was Mayor de Blasio's skit," Fox News quoted Clinton as saying. "He has addressed it, and I will really defer to him because it is something that he's already talked about."
New York politicians, power brokers and reporters laughed at the joke. But as word of the skit spread via social media, the coverage became scornful.
The Daily News blared "Skit for Brains" on its Tuesday front page. And New York magazine made reference to the mayor's black spouse, asking: "Does your wife, Chirlane (McCray), know about this joke?"
De Blasio, whose two multiracial children identify as black, downplayed the controversy.
"It was clearly a staged event," he said on Monday. "I think people are missing the point here."
Mayoral aides added that the skit was not meant to offend and pointed out that it was far from the only risque joke during a night on which reporters put on a show to roast politicians and then the mayor returns the favour.
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest deflected questions about the propriety of the joke, saying he had not seen it, but he praised Clinton and de Blasio for the "commitment that they've shown over the course of their career to justice and civil rights".
The flap comes at a poor time for Clinton, who has enjoyed deep support from black voters during the previous primaries and is banking on their support again in New York's April 19 primary to ward off a challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
A loss for Clinton in her home state could upend the Democratic race, though she would still have a significant delegate lead.