Vice President Joseph Biden has apologized for his use of the term "Shylocks." Biden used the term, which is widely viewed as anti-Semitic, on Tuesday while discussing his son Beau's military service in Iraq and his son's experience providing servicemembers with legal assistance upon their return home. Biden was speaking at an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, CNN reported.
"That's one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year," Biden said. "That 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, um, these women and men while overseas."
Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman issued a statement criticizing Biden's use of the offensive term. Still, Foxman's tone was relatively mild.
"Clearly, there was no ill intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare. There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden," Foxman said in a statement. "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."
Biden called Foxman to discuss the situation, and on Wednesday publicly responded to the criticism by issuing a statement:
“Abe Foxman has been a friend and advisor 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,” Biden said.
"Shylock" is the name of a Jewish character in "The Merchant of Venice" whom Shakespeare depicts as a merciless loan shark. The term continues to be used as a slur against Jews.