By Albert Lin
Loquacious Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on insensitive comments this week, using an anti-Semitic slur on Tuesday and an Asian slur on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, at a speech in Washington, D.C., commemorating Legal Services Corporation’s 40th anniversary, Biden told a story about his son hearing from fellow military personnel who had been victimized by the subprime crisis. “People would come to him and talk about what was happening at home in terms of foreclosure, in terms of bad loans that were beingI mean, these Shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas.”
Hear audio of his comment below, starting at the 1:14:45 mark:
The term Shylock derives from a Jewish character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, a villainous moneylender who famously asks for a “pound of flesh.” Biden’s use of the term was denounced by Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day,” Foxman said.”The Vice Presidentshould have been more careful.When someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden, uses the term ‘Shylocked’ to describe unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society.”
Biden issued the following apology on Wednesday: “Abe Foxman has been a friend and advisor of mine for a long time. He’s correct, it was a poor choice of words, particularly as he said coming from ‘someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden.’ He’s right.”
Later Wednesday, however, Biden offended another group. While speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, at the kickoff rally for the Nuns on the Bus tour, Biden told a story about Singapore’s first prime minister. “On the way back from Mumbai to go meet with President Xi in China,” he said, “I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew, who most foreign-policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient.”
Watch video of the comment below:
The terms Orient and Oriental, popular in the 1970s, are now considered outdated and disparaging. New York state has even officially eliminated use of the latter word in state documents.
The Republican National Committee wasted little time jumping on Biden’s gaffe: “Vice President Joe Biden’s insensitive remarks are offensive to both Asian-Americans and our Asian allies abroad,” spokesperson Ninio Festalvo said in a statement. “His comment is not only disrespectful but also uses unacceptable imperialist undertones. It’s time for the Vice President to apologize and to understand that his comments embarrass our country.”
As of Thursday morning, Biden had not yet apologized for this remark.
Biden’s tongue, of course, is well known for getting him in trouble.
In 2007, he described President Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
In 2006, he said, “In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”