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. John

    I'm sick of the dirty politics of both (all) of these candidates.
    There needs to be a "None of the Above" on the voting ballot and if "None of the Above" wins the election all of the candidates are thrown out and the selection process starts over.
    I don't think that either party is worthy of the White house with as rotten as they have become.
    They are making America into the laughing stock of the world.

    If there was ever an election that needed a third party candidate that was truthful, honest and had integrity this is the year.

    August 15, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. dodgedart66

    As Al Sharpton said, "Obama's not a real black from the street, he's not down with the struggle"
    Obama doesn't care because he doesn't care about slavery, he only cares about communism for all, black and white alike

    August 15, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. dodgedart66

    It's truly amazing to hear the liberal response for this. "Obama is the welfare President" is racial divisiveness?
    I guess y'all see welfare as solely a black issue. Racists.

    August 15, 2012 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  4. Pete

    I applaud Biden going where Romney,Ryan would never be seen in,an area predominatly African American.If ya want the vote you go to your people ,no matter what color,ethnicity they are right.Maybe Romney will hire this Davis to be his new African American surrogate,he does sound and look like a sell out or the phrase " Uncle Tom".Don't be surprised if they add him to Romneys campaign advisors,he needs someone to teach him how to communicate to African Americans,the voters Romneys trying to get to ..This chains incident is just another racially charged reply from the Romney camp,watch FOX they're probibly going wild saying its killing the Obama vote,they couldn't be more wrong,but that's FOX they're racist anyway!!!

    August 15, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. Craig

    It's all fake outrage. This will blow over and then there will be more fake outrage over a comment by another candidate. Big deal! Romney is going to say anything to try and boost his unfavorability ratings which should be higher since he's the opposing candidate in a bad economy. But you know, Romney is not going to win. The man is too odd & he's an empty suit that the average guy can't identify with. Also, he doesn't have any plans for America. He says he's "going to get America back to work" and "create jobs" but these are superficial words; he can't say how he's going to do it.

    August 15, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  6. RF Burns

    If this had been a GOP candidate making these comments, most liberals would light themselves on fire.

    August 15, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  7. Ed

    Biden was speaking in political code to the Black community. When he said "put y'all back in chains" he was implying that the Republicans would bring back slavery. What an outrageous, sleazeball statement!

    August 15, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. Grim Reaper

    I applaud Davis for calling out Biden but I don't understand why he'd switch parties because of it.

    August 15, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  9. charles davis

    It is apparent to me what happened. after davis saconded obama's nomination, he expected to get a big job in the cabinet ot equivalant. sorry davis, obama doesn't work that way. he nominates people who are qualified for different positions

    August 15, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  10. SC

    Davis and Wilder do not speak for me. Davis is a has been . When the Republican Party and tea party get finish using him they will kick him aside as they did Steele. Everyone knows that it was not a racist remark and what he meant. I did not hear anything from Davis when some of the republicans and tea party were questioning where the President was born. I am a black person and did not find the remark offensive.

    August 15, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  11. Ron Kirby

    Artur Davis has said there are 8-10 million that have changed their mind about President Obama. Are you one that is still convinced that the most unqualified person ever to hold the office of President or even considered holding the office can lead this nation. If you are, then you have Hope, but no change, no jobs, no recovery and it not going to get any better with him at the helm. Artur Davis who seconded Obama's nomination in 08 is standing up not for Party but for his Country. Do you think Artur thought it would be a cake walk, that you leftest would not call him every name in the books. May God Bless this County and men like Mr Davis. I applaud him.

    August 15, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  12. ptown

    this dude is a disgrace to his race. Hey artur, while ur on ur knees kissing romneys ring why dont you polish his shoes for him also. Amazing how blacks forget how mormons use to view them. and still do.

    August 15, 2012 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  13. racegirl1

    Go back to your tea party republican buddies, I think they need their shoes shined about now. Go go fetch fido.

    August 15, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  14. AndSoWereThey

    Why is the "in chains" comment only referred to blacks? Most of white america are descents of white slsves who were brought to America from Britain, Scotland, Ireland , and from other parts of Europe. History can repeat itself, while the media and educational outlets tend to supress that fact: the "in chains" comment can refer to many others. My point is: Don't fool yourself into thinking its all about race, when it should be about someone that has empathy fot those who are not the 1%.

    August 15, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. Thomas Guerra

    Republicans are now clamoring for an apology again. Funny how they never get one from the president they accuse of apologizing too readily. Apology for WHAT?! For Biden's use of 'colorful' language to speak the truth? I have an even more accurate metaphor for what the Republican party wishes to put on us: cement boots. That's what the banks put on us before throwing us into the river... after emptying our pockets, of course (and long after they employed every means of fraud available to them to fool many of us into signing mortgages that weren't worth the paper they were written on.)

    Biden is doing what "good" citizens didn't do to an immoral party on the rise in fascist Germany 75 years ago... he's vigorously and unabashedly calling a spade a spade. Good for him, good for us, and good for the country. And aside from Biden's oratory style, would any Republican like to speak to the substance of Biden's charge? I didn't think so... that would mean acknowledging everything that happened from 2000 to 2008 and we all know Republicans refuse to speak about or even acknowledge those 8 years and the Republican president who took us down that road with their help and assistance... just like Romney refuses to discuss what Bain Capital was doing in that same period ... or why Massachusetts is indisputably in Obama's corner against their own former governor... or what's actually on Mitt Romney's tax returns... or how a tax reduction of $250,000 per year for the wealthiest will do anything but continue subsidizing the wealthiest at the expense of the middle class and poor. And you Republicans are offended at Biden's style?! Oh please excuse our style of language as we try to find the right words to describe your depravity!

    Yes, shackles and chains and slavery are entirely appropriate and accurate metaphors to describe the Republican party's vision for America. Give 'em hell, Joe. They bought the Supreme Court and with it our electoral process. They may now succeed at their hostile take-over of our country but some of us are going to call it for what it really is ... in entirely appropriate appropriately impassioned language.

    August 15, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. visionarey

    Race relations have a Cause and Effect relationship. The more one side spouts hate, the more the other side reacts and returns the favor. Biden is creating a ringing effect in his comments. He is deteriorating race relations in America (no matter what state you think they are already in),, and the more the people hate on this comment blog, the more they will be hated back. It's that simple. Break the cycle, people.

    August 15, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  17. Charles

    Artur Davis should shut up, no one wants to hear what he has to say. He had his chance to speak and he was silent when his voice should have been heard. A message for Artur, climb back into the hole from which you crawled.

    August 15, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  18. Reggie Pipkin

    So black people "OWN" slavery now? Completely taken out of context. This is not racist, its just Biden being Biden

    August 15, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  19. Indy

    Unshackling the economy is not racist ? Shackles and chains are very similar in meaning,if you are shackled up or chained up you are bound so I see nothing wrong with Biden using this very simialr wording,in fact if Biden would have said "shackle up" and used Ryans exact words it would have been worse

    August 15, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  20. SirG

    OK...How much did this guy get paid by Romney

    August 15, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  21. janelle

    Biden is a joke. The only "chains" the Conservatives are interested in is the ones they want to break that are "enslaving" the American people to the government by making them dependent rather than giving people the opportunity to be independent.

    August 15, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  22. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Davis is just a sour puss who lost his election, don't need him because Democrats need strong men and women and not a weak little boy that feels somebody has done him wrong because he's a failure. Republicans can keep him because we don't want him or need him for anything.

    August 15, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  23. Justme

    Arthur Davis, please do not speak for me as a black person . I know the truth and so do you . Spinning the truth on a non issue will not make something what it is not . You know Biden was not talking about race but what ever works for you and the Romney campaign .

    August 15, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  24. Donald in CA

    No body in the democratic party gives a crap about this guy. He's just another corey booker. I had never heard of this guy until now. Republicans win because they vote these types out of their party. He will never get a job as a democrat again. Good riddance to these uncle Toms.

    August 15, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  25. Tony Bartlett

    What do you expect from a Democrat. They know that they can just go in front of some Black folks every four years,shout a few y'alls and do some cheap race baiting and they'll get 90% of the Black votes. Meanwhile the economic stats for us just get worse and worse. We let them do it to us, we get exactly what we deserve.

    August 15, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
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