Joe Biden has apologized for using the term “shylocks” in a recent speech, saying it was a poor choice of words and not intended as a slight to the Jewish community.
Biden made the comment referring to money lenders who haggled with United States service members stationed overseas.
“People would come up 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,” Biden said.
The term was coined in William Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, which features a Jewish moneylender named Shylock. The word has come to be a slur against Jewish people and plays into a stereotype of greed.
On Tuesday, the national director for the Anti-Defamation League said the word shylock carried a deep anti-Semitic stereotype.
“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,” Foxman said in a statement.
Joe Biden said Foxman was a longtime friend and adviser, and admitted that he was wrong in using the term.
“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,” Biden said.
Joe Biden spoke to Boxman by phone on Wednesday, and later Boxman released a statement accepting Biden’s apology.
“There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,” Foxman said in a news release. “Not only has he been a stalwart against anti-Semitism and bigotry, but 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. He has turned a rhetorical gaffe into a teachable moment.”
Joe Biden has made other gaffes before the shylocks comment. In 2007 he said Barack Obama was one of the first mainstream African-American presidential candidates to be intelligent and clean-cut.