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. VG

    You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to your office, Biden. You make Palin look like Einstein. If you have any self esteem left, you will resign and let Hillary take over.

    August 15, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  2. Free-Thinker

    Who cares what Biden meant to say. The fact that he used such incendiary language in front of a mostly black audience was inexcusable. His media excoriation is gratifying to see. Could you even imagine how the media would have reacted if a republican said the same thing?

    August 15, 2012 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. Nametodd harrison

    News flash... Biden says dumb things sometimes. This is yet another example. The Black community is hardest hit by unemployment... creating an a pro-growth environment for job creaters is hardly throwing chains on anyone.

    As far as Davis changing parties... this is no different than Arlen Specter changing from GOP to Dem. I do not know why the color of ones skin should make any difference in a man's opinion. These Uncle Tom comments are garbage... and does nothing but promote racial divides in this country, and does nothing to enlighten the debate.

    August 15, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. Joel Miller

    Biden is right in what he said. There is nothing wrong with pointing out that Black people suffer more under austerity than white people. That is a cold hard fact that you can measure with statistics. He could have added the rest of us will be reduced to third world status if the Republicans have there way. Just recently Romney accused Obama falsely of reversing welfare to work legislation of 1996. If that wasn't a veiled divisive racial attack I don't know what is.

    August 15, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  5. politics as usual

    @difoderit: I misspoke when I referred to "modern history." I am old enough that 2012 feels like modern history to me so allow me to correct myself and say that IN MY LIFETIME (which is considerable), I have never seen race relations deteriorate as fast as I have seen them deteriorate under this president.

    August 15, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  6. ron

    Art, if you think you're EVER going to win an election as a republican/independent from Alabama.....well, that's just stupid. You're all washed up. You're not even important to fox intertainment. (i.e. get a real job!)

    August 15, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  7. Pander Bear

    This guy is completely without any morals or principles. He's an opportunist and can't be taken seriously.

    August 15, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  8. Facts R Facts

    Arture is a joke and a baby. He lost the Dem nomination to run for governor of AL so he is switching parties. LOSER AND AN OPPORTUNIST. He disgusts me.

    August 15, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  9. Perplexed

    Democrats are the only party that can't speak their minds without members of their own party flipping out and looking for an apology. I've heard our President called a socialist, illegal immigrant, evil, "you lie," ungodly, communist, and worst without an apology requested or given. Yes, Romney and Ryan will have us all in chains. With their policy of even more tax breaks for the richest American's and their opposition to everything that will help the middle class (pell grants, health care, Medicare, etc.) and seniors. We would be doomed – chained.

    August 15, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  10. toucheami

    Way to go team Obama! You have divided us, time now to conquer...

    August 15, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  11. Howtie

    Why would republicans attribute the "in chains" remark to blacks? They seem to be pulling at strings, to derail and make molehills out of mountains. It is more offensive to assume the remark was made towards blacks. There are millions of whites in America who are unknowingly descendents of slaves as well. whites were brought to America from Scotland, Britain, Ireland, and other parts of Europe. So when the subject of slavery comes up, I can't understand why everyone looks at blacks as if they were the only ones in America that were held in bondage. My point is simply, that history tends to repeat itself. If you are not a part of the 1% we are all subject to be "in chains" economically, no matter what color you are. It's amazing how so many of us have "amnesia" so quickly from what the Republicans did to the middle class, and voters are already considering another pro Wall Street /Anti-middle class & poor population to take us into third world status.

    August 15, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. Wake up People

    I love all the comments about how the Republican party does not like blacks, etc. considering it was the Republicans that supported and led to freedom of slaves. Just like I love all the talk about Rommney diverting from his taxes...which to me the biggest issue is why Obama hasn't done anything to turn the economy and his diverting attention from that. Let me see which is more important his taxes or the economy that affect me and my family.

    August 15, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  13. Harriet

    When this turncoat left Alabma because the rejected him, he started trying to crawl around Republicans because he wants to make a name for himself. Well, go ahead Davis, be a judas, but stay out of our business, as it is obvious you have forgotten what should really embarass African Americans. You appear disingenuous with your flip to Repub, but you are more than welcome to stay there. Joe Biden is a good man with a great record in the Afr Am community and we know he was teasing the "unshackle/unchain" line from Romney's campaign. That campaign always try to accuse Obama of what he is truly guilty of and this is no different. Sad that CNN appears to be carrying water for Romney and skewing its reporting to satisfy the monied people. CNN's balanced reporting has taken a turn for the worse.

    August 15, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  14. cheryl

    Once again "uncle" rears his ugly face.I don't know why any black person would want to speak for the reps. or even join their party.They are the ones that is race baiting & have been since pres.Obama been in office..Romney is a crook that is rich & only want to be president because he's rich & want to add to his bio..To hell with Mitt Romney & the entire rep party,they will burn in hell because they're all liars,racists.Hell they don't even like Romney.

    August 15, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  15. Peggy Munro

    When the Republicans are finished with Davis, he is going to be one sorry man. Poor guy, I am both sorry and embarrassed for him if he thinks Republicans care about him. What a mistake and massive fail. Yes, Blacks get and support Biden and have a name for people like Davis.

    August 15, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  16. ArtVandelay

    Davis is right.... Obama and Biden need to stop the hate! It's childish and it's only helping the republicans.

    August 15, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. David

    Republican Propaganda at it's finest.

    August 15, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  18. rj

    Biden is a clown and obama is clueless. We can't afford 4 more years of these fools!!!!

    August 15, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  19. mypitts2

    You know what's vicious? Paul Ryan's kill-Medicare plan. Biden's remarks were just words.

    August 15, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  20. xandersun

    Hypocrisy is the surest way to make sure NO ONE listens to you when you complain about something legitimate. Willie Horton, welfare babies, take back America (i.e., you other people aren't Americans), birthers, accusing a person of socialism/communism, swift boat, and on and on and on. Well, conservatives, you are complaining into the void, and no one cares.

    August 15, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  21. Nietodarwin

    NOTHING RACIST about this remark. He was talking about the violation of the middle class by Wall Street under Bush/Cheney. This is just more silly GOP spin. THE GOP IS TRYING, (and maybe succeeding in Penn.) TO REVIVE JIM CROW LAWS. THAT IS RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 15, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  22. jwalk

    Yo Brothers....Biden is trying to act black. Uncool.

    August 15, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  23. zapper

    You can't trust a switchhitter.

    August 15, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  24. Augie

    The African Americans of this nation will follow Obama to a fault. They will support whatever he says or does regardless of how nonsensical it is. Obama and Biden are a disgrace to this nation and the freedom for which it stands. The only people that view Obama in a race perspective are the African Americans. I don't care what Obama's race is. He is the most inept and unqualified person to ever take the role of president. Fortunately, we have only four more months of his ineptness.

    August 15, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. liehunter

    Interesting that the black community is so understanding when it the guy they support. If Romney or Ryan said it, Al and Jessie would have been out in full force. It's kind of like feminists, their all for women reaching all sorts of professional career heights until that woman is a conservative. Don't say it's not true.

    August 15, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
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