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Joe Biden, rebuked by Jewish group, apologizes, then refers to ‘Orient’

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden apologized Wednesday for using the term “Shylocks” in a recent speech.

Vice President Joe Biden, a boisterous political figure who has often needed to walk back comments, apologized Wednesday for using the term “Shylocks” in a recent speech. 

Speaking at the Legal Services Corporation in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Biden said that while his son was serving in Iraq in 2008, troops spoke about the tough housing market back home in the U.S.

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FOR THE RECORD

A previous version of this post incorrectly gave the name of the Legal Services Corporation as the Legal Services Commission. Also, a previous version listed 2009 as the year the Affordable Care Act was passed. It was passed in 2010.

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“People would come up 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.

The comments drew a strong rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League as anti-Semitic. 

“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. 

Foxman added, “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 money lenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society.”

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In a statement Wednesday as he traveled to Iowa, Biden said he regretted his “poor choice of words.”

“Abe Foxman has been a friend and adviser of mine for a long time,” Biden said in a statement. “He’s correct, it was a poor choice of words, particularly as he said coming from ‘someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden.’”

Some inside the beltway have referred to Biden’s offhanded remarks as “Joe Being Joe” because the vice president frequently goes off on tangents and says things that are not necessarily politically correct. 

For example: “This is a big ... deal,” Biden said within earshot of microphones after Congress passed the president’s healthcare overhaul in 2010.  

Even after admitting to his poor choice of words on Wednesday morning, Biden raised eyebrows that afternoon during an event in Des Moines to kick off a tour for Nuns on the Bus, a religious organization that focuses on social justice. 

In a video clip being highlighted by Republicans, Biden is shown speaking about a meeting with Singaporean politician Lee Kuan Yew, who the vice president said is highly regarded in “the Orient." The terms “orient” and “oriental” are considered by some to be outdated and offensive to Asians.

Biden’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about his remarks in Iowa. 

Follow @kurtisalee and email kurtis.lee@latimes.com

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