Joe Biden is under scrutiny after comments he made have been called antisemitic. The speech has been resurrected from an old one he made as vice president. Biden was giving a speech in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. The speech was as follows:
Biden Praises Jews, Goes Too Far, Accidentally Thrills Anti-Semites
What? What’d I say? Photo: Ariel Shalit/AFP/Getty Images
Joe Biden spoke last night in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. Biden has long, deep ties to the Jewish community — Obama actually picked him in 2008 in part to reassure skittish Jewish Democrats. Biden indeed offered fulsome, heartfelt praise in his remarks, before wandering into highly uncomfortable terrain and delivering a speech that is likely to be quoted by anti-Semites for years and decades to come. (It’s already the subject of excited discussion among the white supremacist community.)
Biden’s remarks were not anti-Semitic. They were very, very philo-Semitic. The thrust of his largely unscripted monologue is that Jews have contributed enormously to the United States. That’s obviously a standard spiel for praising any ethnic group, but Biden took care to emphasize that Jews have not just contributed their share to the United States, but far more:
The Jewish people have contributed greatly to America. No group has had such an outsized influence per capita as all of you standing before you, and all of those who went before me and all of those who went before you …
You make up 11 percent of the seats in the United States Congress. You make up one-third of all Nobel laureates …
I think you, as usual, underestimate the impact of Jewish heritage. I really mean that. I think you vastly underestimate the impact you’ve had on the development of this nation.
“The embrace of immigration” is part of that, as is the involvement of Jews in social justice movements.
“You can’t talk about the civil rights movement in this country without talking about Jewish freedom riders and Jack Greenberg,” he said, telling a story about seeing a group of Jewish activists at a segregated movie theater in Delaware. “You can’t talk about the women’s movement without talking about Betty Friedan” …
“I believe what affects the movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” he said. That’s why he spoke out on gay marriage “apparently a little ahead of time.”
“It wasn’t anything we legislatively did. It was ‘Will and Grace,’ it was the social media. Literally. That’s what changed peoples’ attitudes. That’s why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace and rapidly embrace” gay marriage, Biden said.
“Think behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good.”