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. RightyTighty

    This is the difference btw Republican and Democrat on education, as well as others..
    Republicans want to confront the obvious and work on the underlying problems of family breakdown, just like Joe.
    Democrats on the other hand, want to ignore the obvious, call it names and through more taxpayers money at a failed system that can never exceed under current conditions.

    Thank God!! I can send my child to a school outside my failed district. Or should I say thank Bush..

    October 25, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    Like the article says, this isn't the first time this has happened. Joe Biden is a racist.

    October 25, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  3. JDS NY, NY

    What a joke. Joe Biden is the farthest thing from a racist, and the media knows it!! For Gods sake, one of the biggest reasons Joe Biden started in politics was because he wanted to help the Civil Rights Movement. He has the best civil rights voting record in the Senate. When this bunk comes up it makes me furious. I'm one person who's not going to stand by and let this man get slandered and misrepresented. In politics, when you see the slightest opening where you can spin reality to hurt someone else, people will do it. It makes me sick to my stomach. Joe Biden is the best candidate we have running today, and if you support the man don't let this ridiculous media attention sway you. Sure, the media reports this so called "stumble", but where are they when Joe Biden passes legislation that helps the American people and people around the world? NO WHERE! But if Hillary Clinton got her teeth cleaned, it be all over the news 24/7. Ridiculous.

    October 25, 2007 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. michael , atlanta, ga

    Stumble?, are you kidding me. There is clear racisism over and over agian. I don't understand how any one would want to vote for him, let alone the democratic party consisdering the consistant flow of B.S. from all the democratic would be canadates.

    October 25, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  5. Mary Ellen Gateley Clayton, NC

    Biden a bigot??? He has a 100% rating from the NAACP – 100%! Didn't know the NAACP thought so highly of bigots.

    He marched for civil rights back in the day and that was instrumental in his deciding to enter public service.

    Rev. Jesse Jackson has stood up for Biden, claiming that he is a strong supporter of civil rights, and the record of Biden–a frequent speaker at NAACP events–bears that out.

    October 25, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  6. Doug, New Jersey

    It has nothing to do with color, which is where Joe is wrong. Joe is even more wrong to talk about the problem when he is in on the plan to keep it going by being a democrat.

    Democrats have created an entitlement class in this country. These people, white, black, whatever, don't work, and expect and demand a government check at the 1st of the month. They are lazy and don't care about themselves, much less their children whose lives are only based on a mistake or a way to get more govt. cheese.

    This is the libs great society, hold these people back, give them a check from the government each month, keep them feeling that they are entitled to this check, and get their vote for the Democrats each November. All they have to do is remind these people that the republicans want them to learn personal responsibility and that fear guarantees them into a lib vote each and every time. Libs love poverty in America. They love kids who can’t read and end up committing crimes when the only job available is McDonalds. The lib knows that if these problems were solved, they couldn’t run on their lies of fixing the problem each and every election. God forbid one of these poor people learns personal responsibility, gets an education, works hard and supports themselves and their family, they might just end up voting Republican and we just can’t have that.

    October 25, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Ryan Indianapolis

    Oh my gosh if a Republican would have said this, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would be coming out for the canidate to apoligize and drop out of the race. The double standard by the Democrats is a travesty.

    October 25, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. John, Washington DC

    Are there fundemental cultural differences between African-American, European-American and Asian-American (et al) families in what value is placed on education in relation to other activities such as sports, clubs, games, style, hanging out (which includes the fullest spectrum of leasurely activities), etc. When any of these come before education, there will be plenty of folks out there doing better in school – no matter what the racial demographics – those raised in homes where respect of education and success in the classroom is highest.

    It must be socio/environmental factors that dictate such a disparity between the two groups Mr. Biden references – namely what value education has in a person's immediate environ – it would be entirely scandelous to even suggest that there any fundemental, intellectual differences at play.

    Unless, the group receiving the higher school scores had available to them special affirmative action/aid programs not readily available to the other.

    October 25, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. Independent Voter, TN

    Bravo, Joe for telling it like it is without couching your words so they get lost in some politically correct mumbo jumbo. I appreciate people who do not pander. Bill Cosby has been saying the same thing for 10 years and he keeps getting shouted down. I guess he's a racist, too?

    October 25, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. las vegas nv

    why is it that when it comes to issues like this its easy to blame blacks for not rising their kids right.it is common facts that avery community in the world where they is poverty they will always be lack of education be in south america,poor areas in asia, africa/middle east and ghettos etc.what joe is saying is true and it would be nice to stress that racisim has avery thing to do with it here in america.like it or not.if u r poor the first priorty is not educating your kid,food, clothing shelter etc.its easy to look at the poor and say they let themselfs down.if all that money being invested in iraq was invested in education in black and latino communities,alot good would have come out of it than wat we are trying to achive in iraq.its like a game of basketball were the other team starts with 50 points on the board and say u pretty much have the same chance to win the game.ok atleast u had the chance to play, nice try.

    October 25, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. Susan in Iowa

    This man has a 100% rating from the NAACP. He is no racist. And if you read the WaPo article, they do more describing than quoting. They did this to Hillary a few weeks ago, had to put up a transcript, and back down from some of the loaded things they said.

    October 25, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Michael W, Orlando FL

    OMG, This is unbelieveable. You people are hypocrites! Just a few weeks ago, the media, including CNN were flailing your arms in the air over an innocent statement made by FOX commentator Bill O'Reilly. The screams of racism and vicious attacks against him by those on the left went on for days. Now I read here, that you all support these truly racist comments. Oh, it must be because he is a Democrat. If a Republican had said the exact same thing, you people would be clamoring for his head.

    October 25, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Kerry, Lexington MA

    The guy is 90% right. People don't like to hear that their kids are sub-par because of them as parents, they'd much rather blame teachers. The education gap is present before kids even hit the classroom – absolutely!

    October 25, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. CJ, New York

    I love how people get angry over hearing the truth!

    October 25, 2007 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. Glenn,Bham,Al

    Sadly Biden speaks the truth.

    October 25, 2007 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Axel, RKDA, California

    Slavery is over with and racism is on its way out...

    Posted By Rafi Mittlefehldt, New York, NY : October 25, 2007 12:50 pm

    It is? Show me where! I hate to tell you this, Rafi, I really do, but slavery just had it's name changed (to protect the guilty) and racism is alive and well in America. Open your eyes and take a good look around. It's just about everywhere you look and it's not going away.

    For every one place you can show me where there is no racism, I can show you several places where there are every day examples of it. Such as police and or government agencies who use racial profiling, or discrimination in employment, housing, education, just to name a few of the more prevalent (and disgusting) examples.

    October 25, 2007 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. Steve, New York

    AHHH the truth hurts doesn’t it. Since when is facts and truth racism? Its not! This PC would just has you prissy proper and nice now. DOWN WITH PC IT’S SICKENING! BE REAL! This PC crap has castrated this country and is the reason we are having so many issues! If little Pedro fails English the ACLU gets involved and fights to have English not thought in schools because its resist. I’m SICK OF IT!

    October 25, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. its obvious


    also as far as your statistics go...do some research blacks are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit rape then whites look it up and serial killers??? are you serious what do we have 1 maybe 2 serial killers a year? and drug abusers are victims of drugs and drug dealers.....now lets look at something that causes a little more crime like GANGBANGERS and DRUG DEALERS how about PIMPS i think those 3 categories are probably more dangerous to our country then serial killers and drug abusers combined. and i dont think i need to even look up statistics for those 3 categories do i? or do you accept those 3 things because they are apart of pop-culture??? dont pretend black and white neighborhoods are the same in some watered down overp-played speech....do your research if you have to but its a hell of alot easier just to look outside your front door to see what the truth it....

    October 25, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  19. Glenn,Bham,Al

    The 13th amendment did abolish slavery. No place has ever existed or will exist that doesn't have racist of all color. It exist in all of us. I believe it be sin.

    October 25, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  20. cari, columbia, md

    Biden has a habit of speaking the truth and then people get angry about it. Instead of focusing on his interpreted "fumbles" I wish CNN would focus more on his positions, which leave the other democratic lamebrains in the dust. I would take him over clinton or obama anyday.

    October 25, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. Dan, TX

    Oh man, I was just beginning to warm up to Biden. Whether you think what he said is racism or not, no presidential candidate with such poorly developed diplomatic skills should lead our nation, particularly after George Bush.

    Sorry Joe.

    October 25, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. James, Minneapolis, MN

    I challenge someone to quote anything that was correct about his statement aside from the population numbers.

    Then I would like to see someone make the race linkage. I would like to see how African Americans have anything to do with the disparity. Surely someone as right as Biden would be able to find many other factors that happen outside the home that would contribute to an education gap.

    And why would he mention African Americans if he was just making a socio-economic statement.

    We dont have bad parents in Iowa the amount of people with degrees there is below the national average...so what does that say about them.

    You did it again Biden enjoy another term in the senate

    October 25, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  23. james, buda, tx

    "it is common facts that avery community in the world where they is poverty they will always be lack of education be in south america,poor areas in asia, africa/middle east and ghettos etc" Las Vegas.

    spoken like a true intellectual person. Lets invest every cent that any nonblack or latino makes and invest in them. that way all the poor white kids which there are plenty of can say "what about me, arent we victims too." I was a teacher in a urban mostly black and latino school in houston. It was a brand new school, new books, new science equipment etc. Do you think the kids gave a crap. no. Do you think the parents cared. nope. They were to busy telling there kids not to listen to me because "I didnt have the (black)kids best intentions in my heart." Do you think that kid will ever listen to what I would teach. Nope. So this desparity in education crap needs to stop. Urban kids are to focused on being rappers, and cant be happy with just being middle class, and their parents are to busy teaching entitlement. If you cant take care of youself dont be surprised if noone else will either.

    October 25, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  24. erika morgan black dimond wa

    The socioeconomic argument came through loud and clear to me in what Biden said. I found nothing racist in the remarks, only the bald faced truth. If one insists on turning a blind eye to the truth how can one do what is needed to boost opportunity where a boost is needed. Biden's service for all these years has been in government, shaping policy that puts opportunity in the hands of folks, so they can be the best sharer of their gifts for the benefit of the rest of us (i.e. reach their highest potential). Biden's strength is his experience in governments working solutions, I commend him for this, and find his policies are just what we need today.

    October 25, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  25. Eddie wall calgary ab

    For someone who doesn't know the difference between your and you're you certainly have a lot to say about articulation. While I disagree with what Biden said due to the manner in which he said it (the love angle especially and the mom's talking to their kids) what he has stated is very true. I know plenty of african americans (is that right as I'm from Canada?) that grew up in the same social class as myself and have grown up 'into' the same social class as myself because they were awarded the same opportunities. Wealth dicates a lot and ignorance breeds itself, where wealth is less prevelant ignorance is more and unfortunately minorities in urban centers make up a larger proportion of the poor.

    "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)"

    Posted By Donald, Buxton Maine : October 25, 2007 12:27 pm

    October 25, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
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