Vice President Joe Biden’s casual use of an expression some deem anti-Semitic has drawn sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League.
Biden referred to bankers that take advantage of military men and women serving overseas as “Shylocks.”
The term comes from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, in which the villain, Shylock, is a greedy Jewish money-lender that asks for a “pound of flesh” as payment.
“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day. The Vice President should have been more careful,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said.
Biden was speaking to the Legal Services Corporation, a non-profit group that offers legal aid to those who cannot afford it.
Biden was reminiscing about his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who saw other servicemen taken advantage of while deployed in Iraq.
“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 these women and men while overseas,” Biden said.
“When someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden uses the term ‘Shylocked’ to describe unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society,” Foxman said.
Earlier in the speech the gaffe-prone Biden cracked, “No one ever doubts that I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”