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. Rb

    Obama and Biden have chained all low income Americans to the federal government for years. Obamacare is just one more opportunity to chain "ya'll" to the democratic party. Hope you can make it on your 200.00 welfare check because they care about you.

    August 15, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. Bob in Newfield

    Everyone knows it is just a matter of time before Biden spouts off with some inappropriate comment. But the bigger question to me is why black voters have doggedly supported Democrats. A strong economy puts people to work and helps all Americans. The divisiveness spewed by Biden is just another example of racial division and does nothing to improve our economy. Obama/Biden had their chance and they didn't deliver. Even the campaigning Obama said if he hadn't improved the economy in 3 years he would be a one-term president. That is one of the few things I agree with him on. He hasn't helped blacks, whites or any Americans - only his special interests. Adios!

    August 15, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  3. pkbkr

    Margie, where were you when the racist posters were everywhere showing our President with Hitler-like mustache, swasticas, the birther movement, unamerical.....and MORE! Talk about divisiveness....the hypocrisy of the Right Republicans is nauseating! Obama/Biden 2012

    August 15, 2012 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  4. hate from the left but mostly lies

    Kinda funny thing is, self intrest helped create one of the greatest breakthroughs in economic history, Generally Accepted Accounting Principals. Some of the leading bankers and buisnessmen in the 1880's such as J.P Morgan and Kuhn Loeb, came up with the plans for keeping honest books as a new way. They then convinced everyone else to use them and even got Wall Street to force everyone who wanted to be on the NYSE to use them. They had to be done by an independent accountant and certified to be honest by them. Wall street really does take care of itself without too much help from the government.

    August 15, 2012 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. kokot

    This guy is searching fro his pocket by crucifying people of color, lower, and middle class. He has been decdeived by the subtle craftiness of Mittens and allies. He's a betrayer. He should be nailed for pouring out garbage out of his mouth. Republicans will cast a dark shadow upon you. You think youre smart black, you'll regret. Obama is doing nothing to divide this country, he's standing for the truth, nothing ut the truth. It's because he's a dark skin that makes people thinks he;s presiding for the afroame. But nay he's standing for the truth. GOD BLESS AMERICA, FORWARD EVER, BACKWARD NEVER.!!!

    August 15, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    No, they were not racial. They are the truth and this is or anyone from the middle class who thinks that this twit has their best interest at heart.
    He has already proven that he likes to fire people, that he thinks corporations are people and he is "unemployed" witn at least over $250M in the bank never mind what he has hidden overseas.
    The flip flopping campaign is mad because they thought their vp nominee was going to excite the base. Why, I will never know because all the altar boy has done is to bring forward a budget idea he had that most in his party were against. You did what mccain did in 2008 and you have failed. The only difference is that his vp nominee can put a sentence together. Something the woman from AK has never been able to do.

    August 15, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  7. scott

    Even former Obama supporters realize what a lying hateful cheat OBama is

    August 15, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  8. Arthur327

    Democrats have always been racists. They were the KKK, they were the ones who filibustered the civili rights laws they are the ones who use the race card at every turn.

    Biden was attempting to use this fearful image of republicans putting chains of slavery on black people. he should be ashamed of himself.

    Any black person who does not realize this deliberate effort is being made by the democratic party to raise horrific images in the minds of his audience is not using the brain the Lord gave them.

    Chains on black people in one audience; claiming the man is a felon in another ad, claiming he has not paid taxes in another, claiming he murdered some man's wife 7 years after he left a company and that woman HAD health insurance . . . obama is a LIAR.

    If you can't see that, take the blinders off

    August 15, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. Camty

    Poor GOP. Romney gets booed at the NAACP convention. Meanwhile, Biden makes slavery front of a group of African American' thunderous applause.

    The GOP and CNN tried in vain to recruit a BLACK person to become outraged and found Davis ,a former democrat, who is trying to score brownie points with his new MASTER Romney. See...I just made a slavery reference. It's all about the context is all about the context. The African American audience members understood Biden's remarks and so do I.

    August 15, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. Anon 2012

    What a pathetic person Davis has become. Shockingly, he could not win here in Alabama as a Democrat, so he is trying to salvage his dying political career by becoming a republican. I dont buy it, he is a fake republican and was a fake Democrat.

    August 15, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  11. Jesaiah-Brooks Stalnaker

    Vice-President Biden's political accomplishments have been very impressive throughout his career. Gaffes, here; gaffes, there, no problem; because, "That's Joe!" While, I understand the significance of what he was addressing about Romney-Ryan Campaign issues; how their policies, if implemented would adversely,affect, and reverse the progress gained, to regulate the big banks and Wall Street: Now, is not the time, to cast himself, as a "liability" in this critical re-election campaign. What a game-changing scenario: Mr. Biden, decides not to run as Mr. Obama's mate; and, Hillary Clinton, accepts the mantle, instead!

    August 15, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  12. QS

    No offense....but this dude's on crack!

    August 15, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  13. QS

    I honestly can't understand how any minority would be in support of such a xenophobic party.

    August 15, 2012 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  14. MCFx

    When I first heard Biden say "y'all" and turn his voice from a distinguished (I use this term loosely) politician, to a southern black women (just a really bad accent), I didn't know he was in a southern state...and I didn't even know who was in the crowd. But even Stevie Wonder & Ray Charles could've told you he was speaking to a room full of African Americans when he changed the word "shackles" to "chains". C'mon Man! Don't insult our intelligence

    August 15, 2012 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  15. MV74mvp

    As black man the part of this that cracks me up is, "It brought back memories for me," Davis told Wolf Blitzer. Really!?!? Memories of what? At what point were you in chains? I mean really....

    While I think it was a dumb choice of words for the VP I understand what he was trying to say. His intentions we were good but his words were not.

    August 15, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  16. coloradom

    It amazes me how there's always a response and everyone is always right. Seriously. Take some responsibility for your actions. If you say something you shouldn't have, come out and apologize rather than try to pin the blame on someone else.

    August 15, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. rick

    Davis is self serving???!!! What did he do take lessons from Al Sharpton and Jessy Jackson??

    August 15, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  18. Vee

    First of all, Davis is not a democrat. He switched to the republican party after his behind lost his seat in Alabama because the majority black district he represented didn't appreciate how he voted against Obamacare, therefore they voted him out, also while he's talking about racism on the democrat side, he tried to join the Alabama republican party and they told him that they did not want him, so he moved to Virginia in order to run for congress again, but this time as a republican. (SOURCE AJC) Bottomline, this cooning square head jerk is just full of sour grapes because he wanted to be Attorney General and Obama didn't give him the job (since ,in his mind, he felt that all because he endorsed him he would just give him the job) and he also is just another politican who started caring about filling their pockets instead of the people he represented.

    August 15, 2012 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  19. T'sah From Virginia

    I did not see anything wrong with the statement either. When Blacks are on the other side, they forget where they came from – West, Cain, and Davis. Why didn't Davis make a remark when Romney stated in reference to the NAACP – "if ya'll want free stuff then vote for the other guy" or when he BARKED and stated "who let the dogs out – ruff ruff" when he was visiting Black children. We do not need Blacks from the other side telling us what we're about and not about...............PERIOD!

    Obama/Biden 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!

    August 15, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. Foster

    I am an Africn American women in my mid 30's and I believe that people are making more out of what Biden said is just plain stupid. Biden simply told the truth. If Republicans get elected in 2012 we all as middle class citizens will be in chains. Not Biden because his income will go well over 1 million, therefore he will not be affected or placed in chains.

    August 15, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. silencedogood

    The commenters above are a joke. Republicans get accused of racism almost daily for criticizing policies set out by Obama and the administration (They must dislike those policies because he's black!). Yet here we have a blatant, in-your-face example of a sitting Vice President speaking to a largely black crowd and saying his opponents will put them "back in chains" and that's NOT racist?

    Imagine the uproar if Dick Cheney had said it?

    Leftists, you have no credibility.

    August 15, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  22. Gotta Be Kiddin

    He's just trying to get a speech at the convention because the republicans are lacking people of color to highlight.

    August 15, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  23. Bigb19

    I don't understand this article. Davis is a former campaign co chairman for President Obama before Obama became President. He seconded Obama's Presidential nomination in 2008. Now, Davis is campaigning for Mitt Romney, a candidate for President. So, the reader of this article is to take Davis' viewpoint on Biden's remarks as valid?

    August 15, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. jovin_aka_kevin

    Another example of the democrats who will stop at nothing to get re-elected. And still waiting for the college transcripts.

    August 15, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  25. LaClaudia Jackson

    As a black person I am disgusted over Gay Marriage and all the racial hate damage President Obama has laid on America.

    August 15, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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