August 15th, 2012
04:59 PM ET
10 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. Purush

    Romney and team crying that the comment is racist betrays there own mindset. As far as any other normal person is concerned it is a normal comment and a normal rendering. But obviously Romney and group would see it racist because probably they have themselves racist leanings.

    August 16, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  2. DVA

    Glad he is a former Dem. He will soon find out he is not a Republican either...

    August 16, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  3. robj

    Biden probalby spends more time at the plastic surgeon's offfice than anywhere else and still looks like an alien.
    Biden and Obama want to bring this country back to the time before Abraham Lincoln's.

    August 16, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Hey Mr. Davis, you can switch parties if you wish because that is your unalieanable right. However, where were you when teapublicans injected their bigotry and racism into the political arena, accusing the President of being A Muslim radical and where were you when they called the President socialist, a communist, a terrorist, half breed, community organizer in chief, food stamp president and so on? Where were you when they called the First Lady all those derogatory names? Where were you when they used racial overtones to attack Hispanic-Americans and call them illegals and criminals? Where were you when they attacked Muslim-Americans and African-Americans? Where were you when the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann injected their bigotry and hate into the political sphere to attack liberals? Where were you when Ms. Bachmann accused Democrats in congress of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood? Mr. Davis you're as low as the GOT establishment. Shame on you!

    August 16, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  5. Unknown

    I seen the video a several times and I don't see what is racist about this at all. Coming from a racist upbringing I still can not see why people are bent out of shape what he says. All politics here and no hype. I am not for Obama and not for Romney either. Put someone who is worthy up there and maybe Ill vote. JUst remember IRS and Fed bank has us all in chains now.........

    August 16, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  6. Majosea

    I am from Davis's home district and he got beat as a democrat because he really sucks at looking after his constituents. The democrats here refused to vote for him so he is switching to the GOP in hopes that they will not look at his record.

    August 16, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  7. tarura

    Hype and chains, hype and chains,

    OMG (Obama must go) !

    August 16, 2012 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  8. Facts R Facts

    Artur is now a GOP operative since AL Dems disowned him. CNN needs to provide THAT context!

    August 16, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  9. jky54

    My my what a tank of sharks! No room for dissenting views dems? May be Aurthur has just revealed some hypocrisy?

    August 16, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  10. jim atmad

    An "Alabama Democrat" who is switching to the GOP (now there's a big surprise), is ripping Joe Biden and pretending that Mr Biden said something racist?

    You could knock me over with a feather.

    August 16, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  11. Dave Anders

    From Tatah: Please be nice to Mister Biden. Mister Biden is trying to protect Mister Obama who has a fortune that he inheirited from his father who had the business of moving slaves here in Kenya. Now that I have said something to protect slave-running I am satisfied that the Misters Biden and Obama will enjoy the fruits of slavery.

    August 16, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  12. Jeff from Columbus

    Its good to see Biden being held responsible for these despicable comments by his own party. It would have been nice if the President would have rebuked these comments, though.

    Either intentionally or accidentally, Biden used a metaphor for slavery to score political points in front of a largely African-American audience. In today's society, that SHOULD be unacceptable.

    The fact that it apparently isn't unacceptable to the President and Vice President should make all Americans take pause. Why isn't it unacceptable? Why does Barack Obama and Joe Biden think this type of rhetoric is ok?

    Hopefully, they will expound on their beliefs because Biden's comments – and the President's reaction to those comments – are alarming and puzzling.

    August 16, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  13. GFY

    The truth hurts Mr. Davis.....and the truth is the bankers have had us all in chains for hundreds of years.... and if there ever was a candidate in the last one hundred years that lives by the code of the bankers its Mitt Romney....and as far as your point about black and white and divisive language just take a little tour of your own culture's pop music.....their is enough divisive language there to make hate proud.

    August 16, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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