Obama defends Biden comment but nation’s first black governor doesn’t

August 16, 2012

President Obama defended Vice President Biden's "chains" remarks in an interview with People magazine Wednesday, while Douglas Wilder, the country's first elected African-American governor since Reconstruction, has accused Biden of making a race-based appeal.

At issue is a comment Biden made at a campaign rally in southern Virginia on Tuesday. The vice president said that presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney's approach to financial regulation will "put ya'll back in chains." Biden made the remark in front of a racially mixed audience that included African Americans.


Douglas Wilder has offered a harsh response to Biden's remarks (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Obama told People in an interview published Wednesday that Biden was saying, "you, consumers, the American people, will be a lot worse off if we repeal these [Wall Street reform] laws as the other side is suggesting."

"In no sense was he trying to connote something other than that," Obama added.

Wilder, the former Democratic governor of Virginia, took a different view.

"First of all, without question they were appeals to race," Wilder told CNN on Wednesday. "The important thing I got out of this was Biden separated himself from what he accused the people of doing. As a matter of fact, what he said is they are going to do something to y'all, not to me. Not us. So he was still involved with that separate American."

Wilder echoed his view in interviews with Fox News and AP. "You can forgive people for gaffes, but there comes a time when you realize you’re forgiving the same guy for making the same mistakes," he told AP.

Republicans all the way up to Romney have been critical of Biden's remarks, while the Obama campaign has consistently defended his comments. Wilder is the first Democrat to offer such a harsh rebuke to Biden.

Cory Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., and a prominent Obama surrogate, came to Biden's defense on Wednesday, telling CNN, "Please, I beg America, listen to the whole speech by the vice president, don't let the soundbites that the media's presenting to you, affect your mind. Listen to the whole speech." Booker is African American.

VIDEO | At a rally on Tuesday, the vice president told a crowd that Mitt Romney would "put you all back in chains" by unshackling Wall Street.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · August 16, 2012