MSNBC Guest Defends Biden's 'Back in Chains' Comment About Romney

January 15, 2018

Zerlina Maxwell, a frequent MSNBC guest and the director of progressive programming for Sirius XM Radio, on Monday defended former Vice President Joe Biden's 2012 charge that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wanted to put black people "back in chains."

Biden made his comment at a campaign event in Danville, Va., while he was running with former President Barack Obama against Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) in 2012.

"Romney wants to let the—he said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules—unchain Wall Street. They’re going to put y’all back in chains. He’s said he’s going to do nothing about stopping the practice of outsourcing," Biden said.

Commentary editor John Podhoretz said that it angers conservatives like himself when "irresponsible" Democrats and liberals accuse conservatives of being racists when they disagree on policy, citing Biden's comment about Romney.

"For 20 or 30 years, conservatives like me reared in anger and upset when, I think, irresponsible liberals and leftists and Democrats would hurl charges of racism when we had disagreements on policy," Podhoretz said.

"Now, it's very hard for me to argue. I can't sit here and say this is totally unfair to Donald Trump," Podhoretz said about charges of racism that have followed the president's comments. "I could certainly say that Joe Biden was insanely unfair to Mitt Romney when he said, 'Mitt Romney wants to put you all in chains.'"

Podhoretz called Biden's comment "disgusting" and "uncalled for." But Maxwell defended Biden by saying the black people in attendance applauded the remark.

"But the black people that he said it in front of, at the NAACP—because I remember him saying that—clapped, and there is a specific reason why," Maxwell said. "It's because we are under no illusions. The Republican Party that you're talking about essentially spoke in dog whistles. That's what has changed."

Podhoretz immediately countered Maxwell's contention that Romney was speaking in coded, racist language.

"I was not speaking in dog whistles and I don't speak in dog whistles," Podhoretz said. "If you say to me, 'Is Mitt Romney a racist?' I say 'no' and it's disgusting you would say those [things]."