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Clinton And De Blasio Land 'CP Time' Joke With Unfortunate Timing

Politicians, take note: Don't eat on camera, don't wear funny looking hats, don't sing, don't rap ... and, generally speaking, don't try to be funny. You will regret it. You will especially regret it if your very lame joke could be interpreted as racially insensitive.

Enter New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who earned themselves the front page of today's New York Daily News and the contempt of many social media for a skit gone awry. It happened over the weekend at New York City gala fundraiser known as the Inner Circle, where each year politicians show up and embarrass themselves for a good cause.

The timing is unfortunate. That people are debating whether the mayor and Clinton made a racist joke on the eve of the New York primary is less than ideal for Clinton. It also comes on the heels of Bill Clinton's confrontation with Black Lives Matter activists and his later semi-apology.

De Blasio was the star of a skit that was meant to be a play on the hit musical Hamilton. He awkwardly performed a rap. And then Clinton came out onto stage as a surprise special guest.

She thanks him for endorsing her, but adds, "Took you long enough." De Blasio, who ran Clinton's campaign for Senate in 2000, notoriously held off on endorsing Clinton.

"Sorry Hillary, I was running on CP time," said de Blasio. "CP time" is slang for "colored people time," an idea that plays on a stereotype that black people are late all the time.

At this point Leslie Odom Jr., an African-American actor from Hamilton, who was part of the skit, jumps in and says, "I don't like jokes like that Bill."

And Clinton attempts to clarify. "Cautious politician time," she said. "I've been there." She then went on to tell the mayor he really needs to fix the card readers at the city's subway stations, a nod to the challenge she faced trying to ride the subway last week.

There are a few things to note here. De Blasio's wife is African-American, something he talks about regularly. The skit was all scripted, and premeditated. This wasn't improv, and it wasn't an accident. But based on de Blasio's explanation to CNN after the fact, it's not clear those involved realized it could face the blow back it has. De Blasio told CNN it was really just a joke at the expense of "cautious politicians."

In any case, the primary battle has most definitely arrived in New York, where no lame joke goes unpunished.

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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.