Video: Biden's remarks land him in hot water

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/31/2007 8:51:33 PM ET 2007-02-01T01:51:33

Sen. Joseph Biden has launched his bid for the White House on the issue of Iraq, but Wednesday his campaign was sidetracked over race.

Like everybody these days Biden declared online, but it was old media that got him in trouble: Personal comments he made about another White House hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, recorded by a reporter for the New York Observer.

"I mean, you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a story-book, man," Biden said.

Biden later called Obama and then spoke to reporters during a conference call saying Obama understood what he meant.

"This is a guy who's come along in a way that's captured the imagination of the country in a way that no one else has. That was the point of everything I was saying," Biden said.

But late Wednesday, Obama released a statement seizing on Biden's use of the word "articulate."

"I didn't take Sen. Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate," Obama said. "African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said Wednesday night, "It was a gaffe. It was not an intentional racially pejorative statement. It could be interpreted that way, but that's not what he meant."

Biden, who admits he has a tendency to bloviate, has made indelicate remarks before. Last year, speaking about Indian-Americans, he said, "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. It's a point. I'm not joking!"

Biden's first presidential run 20 years ago was undone after evidence emerged that he plagiarized a speech from a British politician Neil Kinnock.

In the interview with the New York Observer, Biden also came out swinging against his rivals over the war. He said about John Edwards, who wants to remove troops from Iraq immediately, "OK, John, what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?"

And about Sen. Hillary Clinton's plan to put a cap on U.S. forces now in Iraq: "Cap our troops, and withdraw support for the Iraqis. Now that's a real good idea. I'm not being a wise guy here, no, no. Think about it."

Fearing the political damage of his comments Wednesday night, Biden released a statement saying, "I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone. That was not my intent and I expressed that to Sen. Obama."

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