August 15th, 2012
04:59 PM ET
11 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. David

    I didn't hear the comments but have since seen a clip. Biden seems to be saying that if the billionaires have it their way, and a handful buy the election for Romney and Ryan, that the country will be run by and for the super rich. Everyone else will be subjected to rule by a tyranny of a few people who have the resources to rig the elections, suppress the vote, and buy their way through the system. That is why Romney and his super rich supporters do not want any regulations. Big government to them means oversight and accountability, which gets in the way of their gaming the system to make their profits. Romney refuses to do what every other Presidential candidate has done, release his taxes beyond 1 or 2 years. That is why Romney and his backers do not want transparency. They want to run it like their private businesses, and keep everything private. They lost control when Obama won and are pumping resources to regain the White House.

    August 16, 2012 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  2. misschmeleon

    Take what Biden said in the spirit it was meant to be. Don't read things into it to inflate it. Leave Biden alone. He is his own man and that is a good thing. He talks outright and honestly. A refreshing change from Washington hardliners. Mr Davis...have a nice day Sir. God Bless you, because you need a few more blessings.

    August 16, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  3. David

    When Biden switches to a hokey black dialect attempt and says "They gon' put y'all back in chains" in front of a mostly black audience, it's obvious that he was trying to accuse his opponents of wanting to bring back slavery. Dems and the media call the term ObamaCare racist, but when it comes to something this obvious, they pretend they can't see any racial overtones.

    August 16, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  4. Michael

    Sounds like the GOP is afraid the cat is out of the bag with Biden's remarks. Biden is right. That's exactly what Romney and Ryan and most of the white, conservative party wants to do with non-whites. That's the reason they're trying to push through voter laws making it difficult for lower income people to vote without a picture ID – people who take the bus, don't have licenses, can't afford a car, have never even had one. In the counties they're trying to push through those voter laws it's aimed directly at minorities – and it puts them right where the GOP wants them. In chains!

    August 16, 2012 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  5. Jane

    Mr.Davis, plain and simple YOU do not get it! Just prior to Biden's allegory of "chains" did you not hear Romney and his ilk talk of removing the "SHACKLES" applied to corporations under Obama? Do you NOT understand what he meant by that?? If not, let me educate you a little by giving you a first hand history lesson.

    What Romney was referring to was removing the federal limitations imposed on banks and other corporations after they financially RAPED this country under the Bush administration. How many of YOUR neighbors lost their homes Mr. Davis, as a result of those RAPES? Let me share with you the stories of MY neighbors.

    Since 2001, I have lived in a well integrated neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. I and my neighbors bought newly constructed brick homes for 120 to $140,000 between 2000 and 2004. By 2007, values peaked at $200,000 for those same homes. THEN they plummeted and currently sit, like so many others for LESS than what we paid for them. In the meantime, the neighbors to the left of me, a couple with 4 children under 8 abandoned their home, unable to pay their mortgage. The couple divorced; the house sits abandoned. The family to the right of me, a military family, tried for a year to sell their home. Unable to do so, they too were forced to abandon it after being reassigned to NJ. The bank rented it to 3 different families till a fourth finally bought it last year. NOw that family has a for sale sign in front. The family across the street from me is the most recent to abandon their home. For nearly a year it has sat empty, ignored by the bank as it begins its inevitable deterioration from lack of attention.

    It is not Obama or the Democrats that created this problem, it is Bush and the Republicans; UNshackeling the banks and corporations will only create a whole NEW wave of indecent, destructive practices aimed at BOTH the lower and middle classes. Romney's only desire is to move MORE of us to the lower classes and your ignorant inability to understand that is inexcusable! Take off your blinders and stop playing the fool! It is the republican party whose ultimate goal is devisiveness- to divide this country into the haves and the have nots, and I do not intend to let them draw me into the latter without a fight!

    August 16, 2012 01:51 am at 1:51 am |
  6. canchange

    Ok,MR.Joe Biden ,dont know what he said ,cant recall what he said:he said something from his mouth ,his brains dont work,only for divide us,the American people.MR MITT ROMNEY and MR PAUL RYAN will win the 2012 elections.GOD BLESS AMERICA AND MARK LEVIN<THANKS

    August 16, 2012 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  7. Klancy Schmertz

    He's speaking figuratively, of course.
    Biden's analogy was good.
    The Republicans know it, and will do anything to divert attention from the damage of their disastrous economic policies.
    The Dems aren't playing the race card, the Republicans are.

    August 16, 2012 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  8. Donteau

    As an African American, I found the Vice President's rhetoric very troubling. I am also disappointed that CNN did not do more to call a spade a spade. If this was a white republican that said something this inflammatory, Anderson Cooper and many others would be quick to say how this is not beneficial. On the other side, I get that Obama's patriotic enough for some people and history is questioned and distorted. This is not fair. However, there is a huge difference in distorting one's record and flaming racial tension-directly or indirectly. Jena Six, the Trayvon Martin case, and many other cases were started by something just as simple. All campaigns manipulate facts and that is how the game is played unfortunately. I am not a Romney fan by any means but can you imagine if Congressman Ryan said anything remotely close to that what would happen. Anderson Cooper, Jack, Wolf....I still watch your shows and believe you to be honest, but you need to be just as hard on Democrats when the truth is not adding up. Thank you for time. Respectfully

    August 16, 2012 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  9. Saddened

    It is sad to see so much hate coming from both sides. The real racists are the ignorant people on both sides who continue to care more about themselves and less about the real issues and how America can become great again. Stop the hate and political redoric.

    August 16, 2012 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
  10. Joan

    You go Joe!!! Love you!!!

    August 16, 2012 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
  11. Lawrence Nwachukwu, PE

    Vic President Joe Biden is a good and honest man who loves and care for all American. He loves, respects, and honors Blacks. He is the Vice President to the first elected multi-racial President of the United States, President Barak Obama. We are blessed to have both men as leaders of our nation. They have great vision, immense intelligent, care and respect all Americans: African-American men and women, White men and women, Hispanics men and women, Asian men and women, elderly, students,etc. They are uniters instead of dividers. Their policy is that of inclusion and unity for our country. President Obama and Vice President Biden have heart and love for all Americans. Their policies show it. Mr Davis who is not well known and is just seeking attention to himself. His becoming a republican is his personal business and not news worthy. A lot more republicans have become Democrats as well. Mr Davis and super rich republicans are the ones protecting the rich and waging war on the middle class- minorities, women, hispanics,small business, students, elderly, etc. You cannot control deficit by giving a huge tax cut to the super-rich at the expense of the middle class. God bless President Barak Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as well as their entire families. God bless America.

    Respectfully Submitted,


    Lawrence I. Nwachukwu, PE

    August 16, 2012 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  12. Dylanlandrus

    Uhm....White people is more mad about the comment then African Americans... They act like they were the ones in chians back in slavery days anyway...Biden didn't mean it like that anyway....

    look bottom line is...

    If Tweedle-Dee (Mitt Romney) and Tweedle-Dumb (Paul Ryan) win this election...

    Kill would be much easier....

    August 16, 2012 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  13. Hall for Obama

    "politics as usual

    I voted for Obama, in part, because I thought he would be an inspiration to other blacks, and maybe even end the racial divide that has so often plagued us, but, instead, race relations are worse under this president than at any other time in modern history. I am shocked and dismayed that he has not come out to repudiate Biden's remarks. Never have I regretted a vote the way I regret that one.

    Romney/Ryan 2012!!!"
    I am so hurt that you vote for Obama so he would bring other black together and stop racial. That do not sound. Frist Obama is not black he is not white, he did not grow up black, he can not fix some thing that he didn't break. It will take both race of people to fix this. Not one man because of the color of his skin. How come we have had 43 President before Obama and no one have fix this problem. You are voting for Rommey/Ryan this time if they win I hope you are ready to tell how they fixed this mess.

    August 16, 2012 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  14. doc tari

    What Joe Biden said although it could be construed as politiacally incorrect by the infants in the news media is 100% accurate and should be applauded. Actually the press who are pushing this as a race issue are helping get the other point across by accident...that being that his statement is 100% correct.

    August 16, 2012 05:40 am at 5:40 am |
  15. coldcase

    Dump Biden. He is a liberal Newt Gingrich, a fool whose ego grows more foolish with attention.

    August 16, 2012 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  16. Rydell

    Blind loyalty is making fools of a lot of people. Everyone knows if a Republican had said those words, it would be an outcry and marching in the streets.

    August 16, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  17. mgrgurich

    Mitt is a sociopath by definition

    Webster's Dictionarey defines a sociopath as an idividual affected with antisocial personality disorder.

    DSM IV:

    : a personality disorder that is characterized by antisocial behavior exhibiting pervasive disregard for and violation of the rights, feelings, and safety of others starting in childhood or the early teenage years and continuing into adulthood, that is often marked by a lack of remorse for having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from others

    August 16, 2012 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  18. Tom Joad

    Biden was right on the money. The Banksters have had their way with us for too long. The cesspool that is Wall Street needs to be drained. If you don't like how that sounds, do something about it. Don't blame the messenger-he's telling it like it is.

    August 16, 2012 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
  19. don

    Someone needs to release us from the "Rope and Chains" campaign that Obama wrapped the economy into..

    August 16, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  20. MrRickinNH

    Anyone who calls this a racial statement by Joe Biden is mistaken! Joe was using the GOP language in reverse nothing more. Biden is a passion advocate for the minorities and the middle class! Any attempt to distort this boarders on ridiculous!

    August 16, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  21. sonnie3

    What America needs is a leader who is a uniter and not a divider as obama and biden have been and are now getting into the divide and conquer stage of the campain that is truely in the gutter. If you ain't got something good to say about some one, Chances are it is better to keep your mounth shut. By doing so you won't prove your an idiot.

    August 16, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  22. Dave in Arizona

    I fail to see how Biden's use of references to chains and shackles is any worse than anyone else's use. Republicans have used the terms in relation to economic prosperity which is the same context Biden used it in.

    August 16, 2012 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  23. TommytheT

    Hey try as the might, the Federal Govt can not fix stupid, even when he is the current VP. Let's face it this administration has no shame in what they will do or say to get re-elected. To Quote Mr Obama for 2008...when you have no record to run on you need to attack your opponent and make the appear to be someone we should all run from.

    August 16, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  24. Al

    Didnt know the right was so concerned about stomping out

    August 16, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  25. TommytheT

    Mr Biden and Mr Obama appear to have no shame

    August 16, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
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