Vice President Joe Biden touched off an uproar when he said Tuesday Republicans would put Americans “back in chains” — a remark that drew immediate criticism from the GOP and prompted Mitt Romney to tell President Barack Obama to take his campaign of “division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”
“Look at what they [Republicans] value, and look at their budget. And look what they’re proposing. [Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks write their own rules — unchain Wall Street,” Biden said a rally in Danville, Va. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
The comment drew a smattering of laughs and some noises from the 1,000 or so in the racially mixed crowd of supporters that appeared to be roughly half African-American.
The vice president’s comment in the battleground state that Barack Obama and Biden carried in 2008 immediately drew a barrage of criticism from Republicans and later in the day from Romney himself.
At a campaign event Tuesday night in Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney said Obama’s “campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the Presidency. Another outrageous charge came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower.”
“Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” Romney said.
Romney added, “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better.”
Earlier, the Romney camp called the Biden “chains” comment a “new low” for Obama’s campaign.
“After weeks of slanderous and baseless accusations leveled against Governor Romney, the Obama Campaign has reached a new low,” Romney press secretary Andrea Saul said in a statement. “The comments made by the Vice President of the United States are not acceptable in our political discourse and demonstrate yet again that the Obama Campaign will say and do anything to win this election. President Obama should tell the American people whether he agrees with Joe Biden’s comments.”
At a later event in Wytheville, Va., Biden brought up the attacks from the Romney campaign over his remarks.
“I am told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Va., the Romney campaign put out a Tweet …went on the air, went on the airwaves saying, ‘Biden was outrageous in saying’ — I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained — ‘outrageous to say that!” Biden said, mocking the Romney campaign.
Biden noted that Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner have previsouly used the word “unshackle” in talking about the economy. “The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles,” Biden said. “That’s how we got where we are.”
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, did not back away from Biden’s “chains” remark. Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter defended the vice president during an interview Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” dubbing Saul’s reaction “faux outrage.”
“We have no problem with those comments,” Cutter said.
Cutter added that Obama “probably agrees with Joe Biden’s sentiments” and noted the vice president was “using a metaphor to talk about what’s going to happen.”
“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 said.
Cutter issued a statement later on Tuesday in an effort to clarify Biden’s “metaphor.”
“For months, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, and other Republicans have called for the ‘unshackling’ of the private sector from regulations that protect Americans from risky financial deals and other reckless behavior that crashed our economy. Since then, the Vice President has often used a similar metaphor to describe the need to ‘unshackle’ the middle class,” Cutter said. “Today’s comments were a derivative of those remarks, describing the devastating impact letting Wall Street write its own rules again would have on middle class families.”
In the statement, Cutter again took the opportunity to slam the Romney campaign’s response.
“We find the Romney campaign’s outrage over the Vice President’s comments today hypocritical, particularly in light of their own candidate’s stump speech questioning the President’s patriotism. Now, let’s return to that ‘substantive’ debate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan promised 72 hours ago, but quickly abandoned,” she added.
And an Obama campaign official reiterated to ABC News that Biden was “clearly using a metaphor.”
“As the full quote makes obvious, the vice president was clearly using a metaphor to describe the devastating impact of deregulating Wall Street and the financial industry, as well as how Gov. Romney’s policies would take us back to the same failed formula that led to the 2008 financial crisis — the same failed formula that benefited a few but crashed our economy and hurt the middle class,” the official said.
A flurry of reactions broke out on Twitter, with senior Obama adviser David Axelrod mocking the “phony outrage” over Biden’s remark.
“Enough phony outrage from Team Mitt, while they pour millions into ads that blatantly, brazenly lie about POTUS record on welfare to work,” he tweeted.
Elsewhere on Twitter, Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, slammed Biden for his “objectionable” comment.
“The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel’. What will they do about Biden’s ‘chains’ remark?” he tweeted.
On his popular radio show, Rush Limbaugh also addressed the controversy.
“They’re going to put y’all back in chains, he says to a predominantly black audience. They’re going to put y’all back in chains. And, of course, the reaction, ‘Oh that’s just Joe. That’s just Joe.’ He sees a guy in a wheelchair, ‘Stand up Chuck! Oh God bless you, what have I done. Everybody stand up for Chuck.’ He’s a walking buffoon and Obama knows it. They all know it. But it’s getting to the point it’s too late to do anything about it. … Is Obama going to be in chains? That’s a good question. Good question. Is Ryan going to put chains back on Obama?” Rush said, according to a transcript.
At the end of the campaign rally, Biden made another gaffe as he called for the Virginia crowd to help win North Carolina for Obama. Danville, Va., is located on the North Carolina border and the vice president had been campaigning in that state on Monday.
“We can win North Carolina again and if we do, we win this election,” Biden said.