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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I have no qualms with you switching "teams" Davis and now going to bat for Republicans. That's your right. But I do resent you trying to make a name for your sorry-a$$ self by maligning and intentionally twisting a good man's words.
    Take a good look at how the GOPeeing Teata, err, Teatrolls treat Blacks that lend themselves to saying the things their White counterparts cannot say for fear of backlash. See how well it worked out for Steele.
    Don't be a dumba$$ stooge, youngblood.

    August 15, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  2. sbrowne

    What Biden said was true. I am an African American. I support President Obama and Biden. The former campaign chair is just trying to kiss up to the Republicans and when they get finish with him, they will through him to the dogs, just ask Herman Cain. The Republicans are using this a distortion from the truth about Romey's taxes which he has not and will not show.

    August 15, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  3. jermaine

    the judus davis will be fired. He will not make it as a republican

    August 15, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. demsrule

    As an African American, let me be the first to say that: Arthur Davis does not speak for anyone but himself, especially not Black people. He is self serving and have claimed to have switched "parties" because faults he have found with the Obama/Biden administration. Pretty timely switch, since millionaires have Romney in their hip pockets and while the GOP is padding his pocket with the cash that he could not get while a democrat. He has become what we have come to refer to from slavery as a "house N-–! He will do and say anything not to go back into the fields and will sell out anyone who opposes "Master Mitt"! So, he hasn't changed my mind nor the minds of the millions of people who see Willard and his henchmen for who they really are!

    August 15, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  5. g

    at least he did,nt lie the country into war

    August 15, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. rs

    Debby- After the mess Mr. Romney left in Europe, he makes Biden look like Einstein.

    August 15, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  7. Brian

    Why, Wolf Blitzer, didn't you push Arthur Davis to explain why he has abandoned President Obama and the Democrats? His position needs explanation! It requires some critical examination, which is supposedly the role of the media. You gave him a free pass to spout off. Using what happened yesterday hardly explains his reasons for becoming a Republican in May and supporting Mitt Romney, a candidate whose veracity is very much in question when you look at his record.

    August 15, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  8. whatsup

    Biden....what a dork...

    August 15, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Camty

    Davis had nothing to say about his fellow ELECTED GOP members "He is a Muslim" remarks toward Obama. Davis had nothing to say about the Birther remarks geared towards Obama. Davis had nothing to say about the Socialist, Communist, and Terrorist comments geared toward Obama. GOP elected officials have waged war the past 4 years on women and minorities in this nation by "passing" anti-immigration laws, anti- women and anti member of minority group legislation...No comments from Davis. The GOP have waged war on Islam in this nation by protesting Mosques and passing so-called anti-Shira Law legislation...Never mind the fact Shira Law is banned in the US anyway....No comments form Davis. Finally, Davis had nothing to say about Boehners "shackled" comments earlier this year.

    All of a sudden, Davis ...trying to score points with his new GOP buddies decides to be the first and only "Black" to condemn Bidden for his remarks...somehow thinking African American voters will vote Romney/Ryan in November over this? By the way, Romney's religion did not consider BLACK people as human beings and did not allow BLACK people to enter the Mormon Church until 1979. Nineteen seventy flipping nine? ..........What are Davis' thoughts about Romney being part of a faith that did not "welcome" BLACKS until 33 years ago?

    August 15, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  10. 1zb1

    Well we understand Davis. He's decided keeping his government job is more important then reality. As for Wilder, the guy has obviousely lost some of his marbles. Reality check: The BANKS have actually beyond a doubt taken advantage of minorities in countless ways. This isn't about race, this is about face.

    August 15, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. lashah28

    There is nothing more shameful to Black Americas than to see another a Black Politician accusing someone of race baiting, while representing a race baiting organization. The Conservative Right/ Tea Party is a group who are trying to force their religious and social ideology on the rest of Americans. The Tea Party does not view any ethnic group who does not believe in their religious and social ideology to be equals and worthy of being called Americans. And for this belief, they implement policies to try and achieve their agenda. This makes them RACISTS!

    August 15, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. anthony76

    Still won't distract from Romney's TAXES. or Ryan's Medicare killing proposals.

    August 15, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. Libertarian_One

    Canada, that is such a blanket, bigoted statement it makes me sick. The republicans are not the only party that harbors racists of some sort. As a thinking human being and proud American war veteran, don't hang labels on people like you just did. If you believe that it opens the door to label people haters and racists based on nothing more than where they grew up or how there political leanings are.

    Back to the topic, Biden has a habit of saying stupid things, it is not new. What he meant and how it was interpreted are two different things. I agree with Brian that his point was the banks, not being chained as a slave, but a fiscal prisoner. However, as we can all see today, both Dems and Reps are fiscally bringing us down by increased government spending, expansion of government jobs (paid for by taxes), and wasteful government spending on all sorts of federal programs that can be done away with, as well as redundant programs. Bush and Obama have increased our spending and federal jobs by quite a bit (so what is the difference anymore between these two parties?) and both allow the Fed to print money with no gold/silver backing. It is awful that most people cannot see this and have no clue as to what is going to befall our country in the next decade if this fiscal crisis continues unchecked....can anyone say Greece or Spain????

    This President and his Vice both need to go away...unfortunately I don't like Romney all that much so I think I'll pen in my name this election period.

    August 15, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  14. NorCalMojo

    I used to defend Biden, but that was inexcusable.

    Biden should resign. It's that bad.

    August 15, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Racial tension is worse under Obama.'

    Of course it is. Anyone who actually thought that the election of a black man as POTUS would have any other immediate effect than to cause white conservatives to go completely and utterly apesh-t over "their country" being "taken away" (otherwise, why and from whom did they need to "take it back"?) hasn't been paying any effing attention for over half a century.

    August 15, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  16. Cal Makins Jr.

    I, a black american, because enough blacks were hosed down burned and dog bitten in this country enough for the son of these times to be called American...know that Biden was saying that the chains will be off Wall Street and ya'll meaning the nonuppermiddle and nonupperclass will be back in chains and that's the truth, Ruth. To assume the only people in American sans money are black is about as short a drive as down the street to the umemployment line.

    August 15, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "Racial tension is worse under Obama."


    Anyone who thought that the election of a black man as POTUS would have any other effect than to cause white conservatives around the country to lose their everloving minds hasn't been paying any attention whatsoever for over half a century.

    August 15, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. Kim

    The GOP Presidential candidate and his VP select is the devils advocate, they try to destroy the middle class, the future generation and hurting the senior citizen in this nation. If you are not seeing their tactics, then be prepare for the truth what they will do to our families if you elect them. All I can do is pray for this country. Btw Congressman Paul Ryan has been embrace the atheist Writer, Ayn Rand. What is that tell you?

    August 15, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. John

    PANIC PANIC PANIC in the Romeny camp, that is all this is. They have nothing to offer that anyone wants, so they can't talk about that, they can"t be honest and say we are in theis for then money, so they pretend to get upset with this nonsense. Anyone genuinly upset by this SHOULD be put in chains to keep reasonable people safe!

    August 15, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  20. Pam

    Please, this fake outrage is exhausting. How many times do the republicans talk about food stamp president, welfare president, etc. Those accusations are much more derisive. Shackles – chains what difference does it make. There were BOTH black and white people in the audience.

    August 15, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. What Does He Think About the Birther Movement?

    Oh, I don't know, wouldn't you think that the Tea Party signs of the President with all the swastikas emblazoned on them and the birther movement refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the President to hold office "smacked of a type of divisiveness" and "racial viciousness?"

    Welcome to Party, pal, and I wish you well, but I guess if you're actually leaving the Democratic Party for the more civilized and moral upstanding tolerance of the Republican Party, you might want to roll up your pants legs and hold your nose, and I see you already have your rose colored glasses on. I long for the days of the Republican party I used to know, and I am embarrassed by some of the things I've seen lately coming from my Grand Old Party.

    August 15, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. andrew bank

    as a black person in american ,the two buffon(davis,wilden)can go to hell!

    August 15, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  23. margie

    biden is not a uniter he is a divider just like his boss. we will never learn to "love one another" with this rheortic! sto being so hypocritical!

    August 15, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  24. 1crusader

    I haven't heard ANY other African-American say they were offended.I'm black, and I wasn't offended; so the GOP/Romney gets some black man to make this phony case.; and continue this charade.IT'S STILL ABOUT MEDICARE, BAIN, AND ROMNEY'S TAXES.WE'RE NOT TAKING THE BAIT.

    August 15, 2012 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. Joe

    Wow, I'm rather shocked at how lackadaisically everyone is taking these remarks. Put the shoe on the other foot – or "open your mind" as the pseudo-progressives like to say – and imagine a republican saying those exact words to the same audience. The hand-wringing and whiny mainstream media would jump on it like a pack of rabid hyenas.

    August 15, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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