US Vice President Joe Biden.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Vice President Joe Biden admitted on Wednesday that using the term Shylock in a speech had been a "poor choice of words," following criticism from the Anti Defamation League's (ADL).
The US vice President drew criticism from the Anti Defamation League (ADL) for using the anti-Semitic term "Shylock" in a speech.
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day,” the national director of the ADL Abraham Foxman said. “The Vice President should have been more careful.”
"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," said Biden in a statement provided by his office Wednesday.
While Biden was referring to bank and moneylenders haggling people serving the United States overseas, the term originally comes from William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” In the play, Shylock is a Jewish moneylender, and use of the name to refer to greed has been called offensive by organizations such as the ADL, among others.
Biden used the term while speaking at the 40th anniversary celebration for the Legal Services Corporation and referred to his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, and his experience while in Iraq.
"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.
After the clarification, the ADL praised Biden for "turning a rhetorical gaffe into a teachable moment."
“Clearly there was no ill-intent here," Foxman said, but "Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare."