As reported by NewsBusters here, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) made some rather insensitive statements last month concerning not being able to “go to a 7- Eleven or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” CNN invited Biden on Friday's 5PM ET installment of “The Situation Room” to discuss how things are going in Iraq – amongst other things – and then gave him a great opportunity to explain these Indian remarks (video link to follow).
Rather than challenge the Senator in any way, host John King filling in for Wolf Blitzer basically gave Biden a platform to rationalize why these statements weren’t inappropriate. After reading the offending sentences from Biden captured by C-SPAN, King simply asked, “What were you thinking?” Biden was then given the floor to make any statement that he wanted about this issue, without any grilling or interrogation whatsoever by King:
What I was thinking was, they took out of context the whole of what I said. I was making the point that up until now in my state, we've had a strong Indian community made up of leading scientists, and researchers, and engineers. I pointed out that over 30 percent of the engineers in Silicon Valley were Indians. And I said, but now it is even healthier. We are having middle class people move to Delaware, take over Dunkin Donuts, take over businesses just like other immigrant groups had. And I was saying that.
Nice job, Joe. What was King’s hard-hitting response? “So anyone who casts that as an insensitive remark is taking you out of context?”
And that was it. No questions about how this might be deemed offensive to Indians in America. No demand of an apology. Just a simple, "So anyone who casts that as an insensitive remark is taking you out of context?”
Maybe if CNN and the rest of the media would have reported that Sen. Trent Lott’s comments in December 2002 at a party celebrating the 100th birthday of Strom Thurmond were taken out of context, Lott would still be the Senate Majority Leader. Instead, at the time, CNN was so outraged by Lott’s statements that they had Al Gore on the December 9, 2002 edition of “Inside Politics” stating: “Trent Lott made a statement that I think is a racist statement, yes. That's why I think he should withdraw those comments or I think the United States Senate should undertake a censure of those comments.”
In fact, in December 2002, CNN did 166 reports about Lott's sentiments expressed to Thurmond according to an unaudited LexisNexis search. By contrast, only the 4PM and 5PM ET editions of “The Situation Room” have addressed the Biden comments since the story broke. And, although the 4PM installment cited a spokesperson from the Indian American Republican Council saying that Biden's comments were "over the top," that's about all the outrage CNN could muster concerning this issue. King didn't even ask Biden to comment about the opinions expressed by this Indian American group.
What a difference a “D” makes.
What follows is a full transcript of the 5PM ET segment, along with a video link courtesy of Crooks and Liars.
JOHN KING: Senator Biden, we need to close. But I want to ask you, Senator Biden, about something you said last month in New Hampshire that is just exploding on the blogs right now. And I want to give you a chance to answer it. You said this while you were up in New Hampshire, captured by CSPAN on June 17th: "You cannot go to a 7- Eleven or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent, I'm not joking."
What were you thinking?
BIDEN: What I was thinking was, they took out of context the whole of what I said. I was making the point that up until now in my state, we've had a strong Indian community made up of leading scientists, and researchers, and engineers. I pointed out that over 30 percent of the engineers in Silicon Valley were Indians.
And I said, but now it is even healthier. We are having middle class people move to Delaware, take over Dunkin Donuts, take over businesses just like other immigrant groups had. And I was saying that.
And my comment about you can't go in unless you have an Indian accent was making the point that they're growing, it's moving. I could have said that 40 years ago about walking into delicatessen and saying an Italian accent in my state.
The point was, this is healthy. We're now having not merely engineers and scientists and the significant brain power that came our way in the Indian community, but we're also now having ordinary middle class people move to this country, building businesses, building families and strengthening our neighborhoods.
That was the generic point I was making. I've made it a number of times in the Indian community and out of the Indian community. This is a vibrant, vibrant community that ranges all of the way from CEOs in Silicon Valley to families that are taking over the Dunkin Donuts and fast-food stores in my state and building businesses and building the community.
KING: So anyone who casts that as an insensitive remark is taking you out of context?
BIDEN: Absolutely, positively. I have had an incredibly strong relationship with the Indian-American community in the State of Delaware, which has been vibrant. They are mostly engineers in the DuPont company, scientists and the drug companies.
And the point I'm making now is now you have not just the scientists and the cream of the crop, you have average middle class Indians moving to the United States and making contributions, at least in my state, which I'm very familiar with.