The Obama campaign offered no apology Sunday for Vice President Joe Biden’s “chains” remark, refusing even to call it a poor choice of words as Republicans accused the president’s reelection campaign of race baiting.
At a rally in Virginia last week, Biden told an audience that included hundreds of African-Americans that Republican challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are “going to put y’all back in chains.” Biden made the comment while talking about bank regulations and later said he was referencing to Ryan’s promise to “unshackle” the economy, but critics have accused him of inappropriately using a slavery metaphor.
A Globe editorial published Saturday called for Biden to apologize.
Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Biden has nothing to apologize for.
“Let’s look at what the vice president said: Speaker [John] Boehner and even Paul Ryan have been traveling this country talking about the need to unshackle the private sector, to unshackle the financial industry,” Cutter said. “And the vice president was just taking that metaphor a step further and talking about wanting to put other people in shackles. And the word that he used, chains, is a distraction from the larger argument.”
Asked by host Jim Acosta whether the Obama campaign would acknowledge Biden made a poor choice of words, Cutter said it is the Romney campaign that has chosen its words poorly.
“If we want to talk about words on the campaign trail that are poor choices of words, let’s talk about Mitt Romney’s, when he’s been traveling for the last few years basically calling the president un-American, that the president wanted to make this a less Christian nation,” Cutter said. “Those are poor choices of words, and that’s what we find completely offensive.”
Later on the same program, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Biden’s remark was offensive.
“You saw Vice President Biden play the race card in Virginia,” Santorum said.
The former Pennsylvania senator said, based on his own experience at similar rallies, that Biden was likely “trying to develop [an] affinity” with a Southern audience by using the word “y’all” but that “he did so in a very horrendous way.”
“And he should apologize,” Santorum added.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a GOP presidential candidate in 2008, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Biden was guilty of an “absolutely blatant appeal to racism” and called on Democrats to say Biden had gone too far.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, appearing with Giuliani, said Biden’s remark “may have been a misuse of words” but defended the vice president, saying “there isn’t a racist bone in Joe Biden’s body.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley used the exact same phrase to defend Biden but said the vice president had made an “indelicate choice of words.”
Outside the campaign, reaction to Biden’s comment has been mixed. Missouri Representative Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Democrat, dismissed the remark as “a little throwaway line” Thursday in an interview on CNN.
The Reverend C.L. Bryant, former president of the Garland, Texas chapter of the NAACP, told Christian Post Saturday that the “chains” comment was “shameless and misguided pandering to Black folks.”
A spokesman for the state conference of the NAACP in Virginia, where Biden make the remark on Tuesday, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Thursday that the organization would not comment on “partisan politics.”Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.