Updated 1:35 pm ET.
During an appearance in Washington Tuesday, Vice President Biden disgorged the word “shylock,” an ancient slur against Jews.
Biden was talking about how his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, would hear about people’s financial problems while he was serving in Iraq:
People would come to him and talk about what was happening to them 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.
Sounds fishy. Why were people coming to Beau Biden to discuss their finances?
Anyway, no, of course I don’t think he was actually trying to malign the Jewish people. He’s just . . . he’s just Biden. And somehow, he became vice president.
At least one Jewish leader reacted with outrage:
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day,” said Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman. “The Vice President should have been more careful.”
Shylock was the moneylender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The character became a stereotype that has come down through the years, serving as an epithet to describe Jews as greedy and crafty about money.
Biden was speaking to the Legal Services Corporation, which offers legal assistance to the poor.
UPDATE: Biden responds:
Abe Foxman has been a friend and adviser of mine for a long time. He’s correct, it was a poor choice of words, particularly as he said coming from ‘someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden.’ He’s right.