October 25th, 2007
11:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Biden 'stumbles' over education question

Sen. Joe Biden.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In what the Washington Post is describing as a "stumble," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in an interview with the paper Wednesday that Washington's high minority population is one of the reasons for the city's education problems.

Explaining why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., Biden told the Post, "There's less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with."

"When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes, when you have children coming from homes where there's no books, where the mother from the time they're born doesn't talk to them - as opposed to the mother in Iowa who's sitting out there and talks to them, the kid starts out with a 300 word larger vocabulary at age three. Half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom," the Delaware Democrat added.

The paper reports Biden's campaign quickly sought to clarify the remarks, saying in a statement that the senator was not making a "race-based distinction" but rather a "socio-economic" one.

This isn't the first time Biden's words have caused controversy. Last February, on the same day he officially announced his presidential bid, a newspaper quoted the senator describing Sen. Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

And, in a June 2006 appearance in New Hampshire, Biden commented on the growth of the Indian-American population in Delaware by saying, "You cannot go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. Oh, I'm not joking."

- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney

Filed under: Iowa • Joe Biden
soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. M. Mathers - Urbana, MD

    No comments needed here. Is Joe Biden even relevant ?

    October 25, 2007 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. Matt, Nashville TN

    One time can be considered a stumble... Biden's track record is clearly one of a racist who can't keep his bigotry under control.

    You are clearly not what this country needs Mr. Biden.

    October 25, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Michael Torrance, CA.

    It's hard to admit but there is some truth in what Sen. Biden says. Values tend to be different in Midwestern cities than in more densely populated cities on both coasts. If both parents work and send a child to daycare from the time he or she is six weeks old, it's hard to tell what kind of care they are getting. For sure they are going to learn someone else’s values.

    October 25, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Steve, Sumter SC

    We cause a great deal of our own problems I hate to say this but, Biden has a point! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. The government cannot and will not come to our rescue. Fathers need to man up and raise their children from up close! It all starts there! Let the hate begin!

    October 25, 2007 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  5. B.A., Cary, NC

    Well it's true....more poor black than whites, especially in DC vs Iowa. The problems would be solved a lot faster if certain groups could simply acknowledge this fact, rather than trying to challenge it simply because they may not like hearing it.

    October 25, 2007 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  6. Stephen, Charlottesville, VA

    I don't know why he's backing off the comment. It's true that there actually is a racial difference in parenting styles which tends to discourage progress in education (at least according to test scores) in African Americans. It's not racist, it's just a cultural fact. Socio-economic status plays a role but there is still a racial effect.

    October 25, 2007 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. C in Kansas City, Missouri

    "When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes [a socio-economic distinction, right Joe?], when you have children coming from homes where there's no books [you're right, Joe, everyone knows that poor people don't read books], where the mother from the time they're born doesn't talk to them [don't you hate when poor people do that?] — as opposed to the mother in Iowa who's sitting out there and talks to them [you're right, Joe, only in socio-economic upscale Iowa can you find a loving, nurturing mother]...."

    Do you have any more wisdom to share with us, Joe?

    October 25, 2007 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. Yury, NYC

    It is a fact that this country has a massive education problem when it comes to poor people, when it comes to black people, and especially when it comes to poor black people.

    Biden is not racist, he is just telling the truth. Nevertheless, he is missing something very important. If he is going to say these things, he also needs to explain both the reason behind this disparity and his solution to it.

    October 25, 2007 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. et, westminster, CA

    I wish this guy would just switch party – to Republican – since everything he's said had been right on as an ignorant upperclass racist Caucasian as he is.

    October 25, 2007 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Mark, Shreveport, La

    How is what he said not true?

    October 25, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. David, Dallas Tx

    The poor tend to struggle more academically, that's true.

    Minorities tend to be poor more often. That's true as well.

    It's not true that minorities, once socioeconomic and cultural-bias factors are eliminated, tend to perform poorly academically.

    It's bigotry, plain and simple, to think otherwise.

    It is sad that bigotry seems to be on the rise.

    October 25, 2007 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Chris, Macomb, IL

    Biden is quite the racist pig here.

    Is he seriously claiming that black parents care less about their childrens well being than white parents?

    Even if a parent can't purchase books they can use the public library and get all the books for free.

    October 25, 2007 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. david, Iowa City, Iowa

    Although an unfortunate stumble...the socio-economic situation is just that. Lower income urban families have less opportunity at parenting than rural families. However, Iowa has its share of the lower economic group too. Assuming most of Iowa is a nice little farm where mom spends hours talking to the kids while snapping beans..is not at all real.

    October 25, 2007 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. George, Cedar Rapids, IA

    I'm not defending what Joe Biden has said or done, but the assertion that the mid western people's values are "different" is just a downright lie. When you walk into a Hyvee and see 20 year old mothers shopping with their newborns at 11 @ night, you must question these "values" you're talking about. I live in the midwest now for work, having moved there from New England. Even in the cities, you didn't see that as often as I have here in the midwest.

    October 25, 2007 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Jayne Syracuse, NY

    Hahaha!! Midwestern Values! Laughable. I lived in Iowa. I've never seen more 17 year old mothers with young children out and about at 10 and 11 o'clock at night. I've also never seen so many people not have jobs. They just hang out on porches and lawns all day and night. I've never seen so many middle and high school aged kids roaming around during the day, clearly skipping school, life, whatever. And guess what, Senator Biden, they're white. WHITE WHITE WHITE. Honkies, Crackers, call them what you will. It's time, Senator Biden, that you just tell your supporters to back Governor Bill Richardson and go back to "making love to your wife"...

    October 25, 2007 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. joseph, austin, tx

    joe thank god you're not a repub or a conservative, because you would be thrown under the bus, and jesse and al would be protesting you. but since you're a Dem everyone will understand what you're saying, and count it as a slip of the tongue. just saying look at what people said about romney yesterday, and lets compare that with today.

    October 25, 2007 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Robert, Vivian, La

    Bill Cosby would agree 100% He pointed this out in his speech to the NAACP. The poor in the black community are "not holding up their end of the deal."
    "Parenting is not going on." Brown v. the Board of Education where people risked life and limb to get to school is being disrespected in poor black communities where "what you is?" and "where you at?" is the common language.

    Biden AND Cosby are right

    October 25, 2007 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. Shane Smith Chattanooga TN

    I don't understand you people. Why is it "hard to say"? Why do we "not want to hear it"? It's the truth. Deal with it!! Black kids are raised on welfare, where it's more important to have shiny wheels on your car than food on the table. They have no father figure and chances are, their mother doesn't have much of an education either. So why are we surprised when the black children aren't as smart as the white ones? It's as plain as the nose on your face people. Keep telling the truth out there Joe. Don't let the media change you.

    October 25, 2007 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Michael Sheridan, Grand Rapids, MI

    Biden wasn't ready for a presidential run in 1988, when he was caught cribbing the life story and speeches of British politician Neil Kinnock for his own use, and it's apparent he isn't ready this time around, either.

    Campaigning all around the country must be a lot of fun, because it's hard to explain why somebody consistently within the margin of error of 0% in the polls would continue in the race otherwise.

    October 25, 2007 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  20. Salita

    Joe is half right and half wrong as are a few people posting today. I dont think Joe knows enough about african americans to say how we parent our children. Most of you probably dont know any african americans except from work or the youth sporting event.
    Stephen in Charolttesville pointed out test scores.....funny thing about test scores the are affected by how much money is spent in the education system of that particular district. it is a fact urban schools have less money to work with compared to other schools and for some strange reason you think those children should do well.Why?! Also I wonder if any of the comparisons include students from traditional black colleges? I doubt it...that's not an image many would want to get out......certain people might get upset and start a few fires.

    October 25, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Justin, Clinton Township, MI

    Macacca, Mr. Biden. Macacca. Say good-bye to your presidential aspirations right now.

    October 25, 2007 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. kj Apple Valley, MN

    Pluueeeze people... Racist pig? or just someone with enough guts to speak the truth? He is talking about a socio-economic inequality here, not race. Who in their right mind would even imply that white parents care more about their children than black parents..If anyone believes this, then they have a big problem with racism...For whatever reason, black children, in general, are not performing as well academically as white kids. It has NOTHING to do with race, but alot to do with equal opportunity, parental involvement and socio-economic status. It is a fact that many people in lower income and educational levels are black. There are also many blacks who make a heck of a lot more money than I do and could run circles around me in the smarts department! Do I think it is because of race? NO!! Let's get over this race sensitive insanity and be accountable for ourselves and our families! If we don't like results, we only have ourselves to blame.

    October 25, 2007 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. G. Rickenbacker

    On one hand, you have to wonder why any politician would make such a claim, whether it's correct or not. On the other hand, it also seems fair to ask why a Bill Cosby could have said roughly the same thing (if not more negative) and be praised for "taking a stand."

    Seems like Biden just needed to focus his comment. The fact is that he's surely more familiar with DC than Iowa (though how familiar he is with the proverbial inner-city might be another matter). He might simply have said, "In the communities that I am familiar with...."

    One thing's for sure: such comments won't get him elected, and they won't do much to improve the education system for whites, blacks, and everyone.

    October 25, 2007 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. Donald, Buxton Maine

    Now calm down my gentile snowflakes dont have meltdowns. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear. If your spouting anger right now, all it means is that he was most likely talking about you. Although not articulated clearly or politically correct. Joe Biden is part of what makes our country great a dedicated public servent, sit an listen to him speak someday not just a 5 second sound byte. If you think he's a racist you obviously dont know his life story. Like Joe said read a book... 🙂 I suggest (Joe Biden's: Promises to keep)

    October 25, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. Will, Oxford, MS

    Its time to stop playing the race card in politics. Joe Biden has a point, there is a different in race and social matters in the educational system. I come from a state where race did play a major role in our educational system but really isn't any more, because our Great State of Mississippi contains more poor people( black, white, or etc) then any other state in the Union. Where the rich consistently play the race card to get poor whites against poor blacks and poor blacks against poor whites. This has been the way of life in Mississippi for far to long. A State, where education has been rated die last in the Union. I can say this, Mr. Joe Biden," you are right .......race and socio-economical issues do play a major role in our educational system Plus, it also plays a big difference between Washinton D.C. and Iowa socio-economic/race in education!

    Also, I am An African American living in a state which constently, use the poor (white, black, and etc) as a foot stool, Mississippi!

    October 25, 2007 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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