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. dave_washingtonDC

    I cringed when I heard VP Biden.. sad it had to go that way indy, voted for Obama...and probably voting for Romney for fiscal reasons, not social

    August 15, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. RodinChicago

    I am black and don't think negatively about what Biden said because he was telling the truth. Romney's campaign has an exclusionary makeup (looks like a white's only support group) and lacks what it FEELS like to be of certain ethnicity and economic class in America.

    So, where is the diversity in the "Romney Team"? There is none...that is the story.

    August 15, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. dean

    This is the reason Biden should resigned from vice presidency.

    August 15, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    This is Biden's job. There are few accidents in this level of politics. He puts out messages from the Obama campaign that might be over the line or risky for Obama himself to say. They want to push race again like in 2008 because that works. Gallup polling found more people voted in Obama's favor than against him solely on race. It is cold calculating politics. Vote Green Party for a Change!

    Obama – "be afraid of being called Racist"
    Romney – "be afraid of being called Socialist"

    August 15, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. Brian Kenyon

    I can't believe that this is being turned into an issue. First the crowd was not just one race, second he used the term chain vs. shackled, and third it is clear he was talking about the banking systems. It is also clear that if they unchain the financial Giant we will be chain and restrained against being able to control that beast. To say this is divisive and make this a controversy is going to far. The republicans should face the facts of the statement, the analogy and what choices they are making and how they will affect the lower and middle class and stop trying to take clear statements and making them into something they are not. The fact that this has gained so much air time and take up so much of the voters time from the core issues just amazes me.

    August 15, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. stlchicago

    What a joke! Yes, we know what Binden was doing, he was playing politics. What I see is the GOP taking the spot light off the truth that Binden told and making it more about race. So what if Binden said "chains" instead of some more politically correct term, so what. Everytime something reminds us about this country's dark past, the crazies want to lose their minds. I hope Binden comes out and repeats what he said.

    August 15, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. CanadaONE

    Davis save yourself ! there are racists in the republican party that would hang you and your children in a minute just because of your colour

    When you look out at that repub crowd THINK -13% vote republican JUST because they hate your colour

    AND YOU SUPPORT THE PATRY that harbours these racists ????

    August 15, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  8. CalDude

    Racial tension is worse under Obama.

    August 15, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. blow hard

    Lets understand that this Uncle Tom is saying these things because by switching over to repulican party, after his former role, assurd him more money and greater recognition. He did it because he has no morals, just political amition... he will say whatever the highest bidder will pay. He wll suuffer the same fate as Cain once the party has used him for their own purposes.

    August 15, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. 8Ball

    At least only the VIP, and not the Presidential candidate, who has "foot in mouth" disease.

    August 15, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  11. Margaret

    Has Davis lost his last mind? I am furious with what he said of VP Biden. First and foremost, nothing was racial about VP's comment, nothing! I am african american, I am democrat, I am a woman and I am supporting my President and VP Biden! Romney made a comment " Of course I'm going to win, I'm a white guy". Hello, lets address this issue. As far as "Has been Davis", he is just that, a has been congressman. Davis what exactly did you do for Alabama? Go ahead move on to the Repub's you are not wanted here anymore. Racial remarks not! VP only reinterated what Romney said about the shackles, so lets get it right buddy!

    August 15, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  12. rs

    "Racial viciousness"? This from the party of birthers and TEA Party lunatics? What a joke! The GOP is such a load of lying, evil hypocrits.

    August 15, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. James

    At this point both campaigns are borderline offensive in a number of ways; however former Congressman Davis, you do not speak for an entire race of people.

    August 15, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Sam Smith

    Let's just pray to god that nothing will happen to Obama. Can you imagine Biden becomen the President? God please help us! Talk about a completely incompetent bufoon. A hundred times worse than Sarah.

    August 15, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  15. Thomas

    Rudy Giuliani the King of the 911 photo op , never lacks in the way of humility .

    And if you want to talk about smarts , let us look at the guy who Rudy wanted for the head of homeland security . Kerik was sentenced to four years in federal prison on February 18, 2010 . Bernard Kerik is now serving his time in a federal prison , maybe Rudy has a differant understanding in regards to intelligence and corruption .

    Rudy , send your buddy a get out of jail soon card , please .

    August 15, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. Lenore

    Davis is an idiot and need to go away

    August 15, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. Ronda in Houston,TX

    What Biden said is the TRUTH. And anyone who took it personally is just blowing smoke.

    August 15, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Michael

    When repuglicans call President Obama "not one our own" or "food stamp president" or "muslim when he says he is a Christian" or "unamerican" and refer to President Obama in many other racial vicious terms; I say thats the pot calling the kettle "black." Repuglicans start with this viceral incendiary language, then when it flips their way, they cry foul, whine, have a tantrum or nissy fit! President Obama keep the heat coming, if they cannot take the heat, they do not belong in the kitchen! There is an old saying, "if you do not start nothing, it will not be nothing"

    August 15, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Debby

    We all know Biden is a Gaffey Duck if you like this then vote these 2 back in otherwise you have another choice.

    August 15, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. wade

    Well it is good to see someone can still tell the truth and be a democrat.

    August 15, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Kootnanny

    Biden is pathetic. This administration – Obama and Biden have set back race relations 40 years, between statements like this and the class envy strategy they have. So much for the President and Admin who would transcend all of the traditional politics. As an American, I am insulted.

    Because they can't run on their record, this is what you get.

    Vote for them = STUPID

    August 15, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. difoderit

    politics as usual wrote:

    "race relations are worse under this president than at any other time in modern history."

    What year were you born??? I have read some ridiculous things on this board recently – but this one takes the cake – well, until your next post I am asuuming anyway

    August 15, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  23. Kim

    Davis is a traitor! Wonder how much the GOP has been paying him!

    August 15, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. Ancient Texan

    I've heard three black leaders say just today(on TV ) that Biden made a bad mistake and should apologize for that remark.

    August 15, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. Luke Brown

    Why does CNN give this guy a national podium?

    He has said that he is moving to Virginia and considering a run for Congress as a Republican. Do you need a translator? HE IS RUNNING FOR OFFICE AS A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN IN A PLACE WHERE HE IS NOT KNOWN.

    August 15, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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