ADL Takes Biden to Task for 'Shylock' Remark

VP referral to despised Jewish Shakespearean character when discussing moneylenders shows how 'deeply embedded' stereotype remains, says ADL.

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Vice President Joe Biden gesturing during a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Sept. 16, 2014, in Washington.Credit: AP

The Anti-Defamation League has taken U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to task for referring to moneylenders as "Shylocks" during a speech, several media outlets have reported.

Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, said the vice president "should have been more careful" than to use a term considered anti-Semitic. Shylock refers to the Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice," who demands a pound of flesh from his Christian borrower when he cannot repay the loan.

Biden was addressing the Legal Services Corporation, a non-profit corporation established by Congress, in Washington, DC, when he recalled an anecdote about his son meeting in Iraq members of the military who needed legal help.

"That's one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year," Biden was reported as saying, "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."

In response, Foxman, according to Yahoo News, said that 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 added that Shylock "represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day. The vice president should have been more careful."

The vice president's office did not respond to media requests to comment on the incident.