August 15th, 2012
04:59 PM ET
2 years ago

Former Obama campaign co-chair: Biden's remarks 'racial viciousness'

(CNN) – Artur Davis, the former four-term Democratic congressman from Alabama, said Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden was propagating "racial viciousness" when he said Mitt Romney's regulatory policies would "put y'all back in chains."

Biden made the comments Tuesday to a predominantly black crowd in Danville, Virginia, a city with a long history of racial tension. In May Davis announced he was switching to the GOP, leaving the door open to a future political bid as a Republican.

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"[Romney] is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules, unchain Wall Street," Biden said. "He is going to put y'all back in chains."

Davis, who is black, said the comment smacked of a type of divisiveness he said was all too common in the South.

"It brought back memories for me," Davis told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "The Situation Room." "It brought back memories of these Democratic politicians in the South, who think they can go before crowds and say one thing and nobody else will hear it, and they'll somehow get a cheer in the room and that they can blithely go on about their business."

Saying Biden went to a place he "never should have gone" in his remarks, Davis called the vice president's words insulting.

"It's a divisive tactic that's insulting to African Americans," Davis said. "It's insulting to the American people. It's insulting to the legacy that he used to build up as an orator who used to know how to inspire people instead of strike fear in people's heart."

Davis, who campaigned for Mitt Romney Wednesday in Virginia, may be best known for seconding Obama's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, when he served as an Obama campaign co-chairman.

Davis said he had hoped Obama's presidency would make a huge dent in race relations, as well as move the Democratic Party further to the center. Biden's comments, Davis said, should embarrass the president.

"It ought to embarrass President Obama," he said. "President Obama has talked so movingly about our country moving beyond race, and his own vice president makes this kind of comment yesterday? It was wrong and the president ought to be embarrassed by it, and the president ought to say it was wrong."

On Tuesday, Obama's deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter attempted to dispel the controversy around Biden's remarks, comparing his words to Republicans who have called for the "unshackling" of the private sector from regulations in recent months.

"Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to 'unshackle' the middle class," Cutter said in a statement. "Today's comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families."

Cutter added that they "find the Romney campaign's outrage over the Vice President's comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate's stump speech questioning the President's patriotism."

Davis wrote off that explanation as "spin" in "The Situation Room" Wednesday, saying he gave Obama's team "credit for creativity."

"But I happen to have spoken to a few African-American audiences in my time, represented a predominantly African-American district," Davis said. "I know what Joe Biden was doing yesterday, and every black person in the room knew who the 'y'all' was, they knew what the chains were about, and they knew what the metaphor was."

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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Filed under: 2012 • Joe Biden • Uncategorized
soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Pierce

    I'm trying to understand why every time someone says something that isn't meant to be of a racial nature is suddenly turn into a racial slur or insensitive towards our black Americans. We all know that when Biden stated they, meaning Repubs would remove the restrictions from wall street and put them on the American people. I country has become so sensitive relating to how our ancestors treated the black population. It's sad that some of our black Americans are reacting as the corporate puppets wanted. The corporate puppets are laughing because they know how they can get some Americans to carry the race card for them by turning what BIDEN said into an attack on black American. Wake up Dems and realize that the corporate puppets are playing you like a fiddle and they're laughing at you.

    August 15, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  2. John P

    Sociopathic, predatory banks will almost certainly be unleashed under Romney to prey upon the public again.
    Biden states this employing a metaphor that can be either taken in context with previous metaphorical statement or in context with audience which makes it a gaff.
    Oh the horror of Biden placing his foot in mouth! What about the central message about banks taking us into a full blown depression under Romney/Ryan? Why get uptight about this when the real story is how a chronic gaffer may have done it again?

    August 15, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. LtButRt

    Davis you are offensive !

    August 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Jackie

    I'm disturbed that we still have other black Americans that question other black Americans right to have a different opinion ! Somehow we are vilified bye are own as uncle toms and sell outs . And that difference of views is what make's our country so special . Now Biden was playing the race card and condeming wall street at the same time . And as our vice president not just the democrats vp . His words should offend all of us and to overlook it or justify it because your aligned with his views . Is regrettably sad in it self one would hope that we have moved past this unsavory history for all of our people .

    August 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Gary Beekman

    I hope Obama does become offended by those remarks. He is living proof that there are no more "shackles" for the black community. Ask Herman Cain. Ask Condi Rice, who if I had MY way, would be President. Ask Colin Powell. Ask J-Z. Ask Beyonce......

    August 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. KJ of Texas

    Most intelligent Americans know that there are always more than one camera, catching more than one angle at this political races. Why don't you make your station not seem so partial to the Republican party, and show the angle of the camera that is focused on the crowd. I guarantee that the crowd is more than African American! Vice President Biden is an no way a racist.

    August 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. John

    It's laughable to me that people are trying to make this a racial thing.. Not like the VP was speaking to the NAACP when he said it....He clearly meant by unchaining Wall Street, EVERYBODY else would be put back in chains. As for Mr. Davis good luck with the whole black republican in Alabama sure that move will work out great for you...

    Obama/Biden 12

    August 15, 2012 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. husk

    Lets face it the remarks were not appropriate. Whether your offended by them or not they simply weren't appropriate and pretending otherwise is pure disregard of feelings of those who are offended. Just like you and I if we said something like this at work we would be in serious trouble but guess what would save our jobs, A meaning Apology.

    August 15, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Joe Biden did not lie, everything he said was true

    August 15, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. cronewinter

    We have all been chained and shackled by banks and huge corporations that have driven out the small businesses and stores in our towns. We are enslaved by poverty as our jobs go sailing across the sea and our incomes are given to others in foreign countries. All the working poor, the elderly and disabled live with the certain knowledge that a very small emergency or a car break down could put them in a position to not be able to make basic needed payments. If Romney/Ryan do get control it's all over for everyone living payday to payday. This is not a racial issue..this is a basic human survival issue.

    August 15, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. Newmoon2

    Davis is a switch-hitter who is now trying to prove his 'loyalty' to his new bosses! As a paid political hack, his job is to feign indignation at whatever the 'other team' does. He had no more credibility today than when he did this for Obama! In fact, he has LESS because he's clearly not a person with a firm set of principles! The GOP has been purging its moderates for YEARS, so his reason for changing is hardly because the GOP holds the high-ground on this purging practice!

    My opinion is Davis changed political affiliation because he lives in a RED RED RED state and had ZERO chance of a political career without embracing the GOP. Plain and simple, he's a political opportunist without consistent principles.

    August 15, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  12. Sagebrush Shorty

    Can't we all just get along? The answer is no.

    August 15, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. Donna Bird

    Ok, I did not take the statement as a slandering. I heard the who speech and I did not see it as a slander of speech against any race. I am sorry. But I listen to the whole statement. But if your mind is always NEGATIVE and being bias, then you will say it., Listen to it carefully, the people who said BOO, only about 2 people said BOO and it was not on the statement of "unchained" but how the Republican is working against the American people. They were booing the Republicans comments and behavior in using the statements of unshackling

    August 15, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. Milton K. Wiah

    I am a black as well but what Biden said has nothing to do with race. Had black person made this statement what
    would he say then. Some black people invite racial discussion sometimes.

    August 15, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. JDS

    Where has Artur Davis and Doug Wilder been during the course of Obama's time in the White House. Repubs have said the most vile hateful things about this President. Pardon me while I throw up.

    August 15, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  16. Eli

    As an African-American, Biden and Obama (only half-black) owe me and my family an apology.

    August 15, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  17. Rob

    I, as a Black man, know exactly what the Vice President meant and so do most other African-Americans. It is time for White America to stop telling us to not be so sensitive on one hand only to tell us when we should be insulted. That is far more demeaning and presumptuous than anything Joe Bidden has ever said. No matter what Davis is saying for his new masters. Now that is something he SHOULD be offended by.

    August 15, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  18. John P

    Two issues:
    1) Banks regaining latitude to operate unrestricted by Obama regulations under Romney/Ryan administration.
    2) Joseph Biden describing above disaster employing what could have been or might not have been an insensitively worded metaphor.
    Which would bother you more? Having family member taken in by predatory mortgage practice or listening to old politician stick foot in mouth again.

    August 15, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  19. Ta111

    Bye bye Obama. When you lose your co-chair because you're too radical it's over. Wake up libs, don't allow the further destruction of our great country.

    August 15, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  20. Ryan/Romney Kill Medicare Team 2012

    Where does ex- loser Arthur Davis stand on Mitt Romney adviser saying" Pres.Obama does understand the Anglo why of life in America" to a London Newspaper. CNN where was this clown called Arthur Davis then? CNN I hope you get up to speed on the Presidential Debates.

    August 15, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  21. Vi Brown

    While I would have preferred that Mr. Biden had not used the analogy of chains or shackles, I am looking at the context of the statement which started out with a conversation of the big banks and unshackling them. Here's my question to Mr. Archer: if he thinks Mr Biden is a racist, what makes him think that folks on the other side of the fence are any different in their thinking??

    August 15, 2012 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  22. Fernando

    So, what's up with the banks returning to their old ways? I suppose if Bank of America CEO made a public gaff, it would make some news.

    August 15, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  23. runner305

    Words like "foreign", "Anglo-Saxon", "I'm not concerned about the very poor" roll from the racist Republicans all the time. Let's cut the crap, shall we?

    August 15, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  24. Antony Williams

    They paid davis to sell his brother. Obama will win . I can put any money on it

    August 15, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  25. Paul Falduto

    i'm not necessarily defending Biden, but Davis has zero credibility.

    August 15, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
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