Vice President Joe Biden's one-liner at a campaign event in Virginia this week set off a round of tongue-wagging from conservatives for its racially tinged tone, but the president's re-election campaign is defending him.
"Romney said in his first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Un-chain Wall Street!," Biden bellowed. "They're gonna put y'all back in chains."
The Mitt Romney campaign's reaction was instantaneous: "The Obama campaign has reached a new low," it said in a statement, calling for President Obama to react to the comment.
The inference here, of course, is that Biden was fanning racial tensions when making such a comment to an audience with a heavy African-American presence, because it could conjure up images of slavery and bondage.
The Obama campaign has sought to downplay the remark and turn the conversation back to critiques on the Romney campaign's rhetoric. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter Tuesday defended Biden on Andrea Mitchell Reports, saying he was "using a metaphor" to describe what would happen if Wall St. reform is repealed.
"I appreciate the faux outrage from the Romney campaign, but if you want to talk about the use of words then take a look at Mitt Romney's stump speech where he basically calls the president un-American," Cutter continued. "The bottom line is we have no problem with those comments in the full context of them."
The president himself scoffed at the controversy. He told People magazine: ‘‘The truth is that during the course of these campaigns, folks like to get obsessed with how something was phrased even if everybody personally understands that’s not how it was meant."
The president also remarked that Biden was talking about Wall Street reform and "in no sense was he trying to connote something other than that."
Biden later clarified his remark to say he was making reference to the GOP's own use of the word "unshackling" in terms of the economy. The damage was already done, though. The Dem-turned-Republican congressman Artur Davis called the comment "insulting to African Americans."
Senator John McCain, who ran against the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 with Sarah Palin, even called for the president to dump Biden.
As Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod said on Morning Joe Thursday, "I have a great affection and respect for Joe Biden…He’s done a great job for us."
"I guarantee that every single person—all four of the principles—will have days in which they will say things that will send the whole media world into a frenzy that will amount to nothing. I believe this weill be one of those days," he added.
Axelrod also argued that Biden's comment was related to Wall Street reforms.