Politics & Government

Biden ‘Shylock’ offense turns into praise

Vice President Joe Biden walks to the stage during the graduation ceremony for the United States Air Force Academy class of 2014 at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, May 28.
Vice President Joe Biden walks to the stage during the graduation ceremony for the United States Air Force Academy class of 2014 at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, May 28. MCT

Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged Wednesday he made a “poor choice of words” when he used the word “shylock” to describe nefarious lenders.

The flap occurred Tuesday when Biden, speaking at a Washington, D.C. conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, used the word -- which many view as having anti-Semitic connotations -- to describe people who prey on vulnerable service members.

Jewish groups took offense, and Biden issued a mea culpa in a phone conversation with Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Foxman hailed Biden for “turning a rhetorical gaffe into a teachable moment” and said that there was “no ill-intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare.”

The character appears in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” as Jewish and a ruthless miser, demanding a "pound of your fair flesh" from a merchant if he fails to repay a loan.

Foxman called Biden “a stalwart against anti-Semitism and bigotry,” adding that “he has the courage and forthrightness to admit a mistake and use it as an opportunity to learn and to teach others about the harmful effects of stereotypes.”

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