For those of us unable to get tickets to the social event of the season, the Legal Services Corporation 40th Anniversary Conference in Washington, DC, we missed hearing Vice President Joe Biden deliver a speech.
In this speech, one line in particular has raised some eyebrows. Of course, that's par for the Biden course, but it's possible this one went a step or two beyond the normal Bidengaffe.
My son as attorney general, the year in Iraq, came back and that's one of the things that he finds is, was most in need, when he was over there in Iraq for a year, people would come to him and talk about what was happening at home, in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being, I mean these Shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas.
The reference is from Shakespeare's play “The Merchant of Venice,” where the antagonist, a Jewish moneylender, literally required a pound of flesh from someone who didn't repay their loan. It has long been considered a vile and offensive term.
Social media exploded:
Not everyone was surprised:
This commenter hoped it was a mistake:
On the other hand, Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman was firmly against the comment but seemed to give Biden more of a pass. He said:
Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day. The Vice President should have been more careful.
When someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden, uses the term “Shylocked” to describe unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society.
So then, this is the question: Is this just Biden being Biden, or is it something more substantial than that?
Editor's Note: This article was edited for content after publication.