Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged that he made a “poor choice of words” in using the term “Shylock” to describe unscrupulous lenders.
Biden was reacting Wednesday to remarks by Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, in response to the vice president’s use of the term this week.
Speaking to the Legal Services Organization, a group that funds legal assistance for the poor, Biden referred to the experience of his son Beau, the Delaware attorney general who has served in Iraq.
Beau Biden, the vice president said, had been approached by service members who had been preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders.
“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,” he said.
Foxman, in a statement to Yahoo News, said the term was “offensive.”
“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 servicemen and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society,” Foxman said.
In a statement emailed from his office to JTA, Biden agreed with that characterization.
“Abe Foxman has been a friend and advisor of mine for a long time,” Biden said. “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.”