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Biden speaks at LSC 40th anniversary
02:20 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Biden says use of term considered offensive was a "poor choice"

Vice President Joe Biden used the term "Shylocks" in a speech Tuesday

The term is considered anti-Semitic

A large Jewish group said Biden "should have been more careful"

CNN  — 

Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his use of the term “Shylocks,” which some consider anti-Semitic, was “a poor choice of words.”

His statement came a day after the national director of the Anti-Defamation League issued a mild rebuke of the vice president’s use of the word, saying Biden “should have been more careful.”

At a Tuesday conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden recalled anecdotes from his son’s experience serving in Iraq and meeting members of the military who were in need of legal help because of problems back at home.

“That’s one of the things that he finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year,” Biden said. “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.”

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said Wednesday that the vice president called him.

“Clearly, there was no ill intent here, but Joe and I agreed that perhaps he needs to bone up on his Shakespeare. There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden,” Foxman said in a statement. “Not only has he been a stalwart against anti-Semitism and bigotry, but he has the courage and forthrightness to admit a mistake and use it as an opportunity to learn and to teach others about the harmful effects of stereotypes. He has turned a rhetorical gaffe into a teachable moment.”

The name “Shylock” derives from the name of the antagonist in Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.” Shylock, a Jew, was a ruthless moneylender in the play, and he’s remembered for demanding a “pound of flesh” from the merchant Antonio if he failed to repay a loan.

On Tuesday, Foxman chided Bided, saying he “should have been more careful,” and added that the term “represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day.”

Biden said Foxman has been a longtime “friend and adviser” and was correct in his assessment of Biden’s word choice.

Biden, who’s considering a presidential bid in 2016, traveled to Iowa on Wednesday to speak at a kickoff event for Nuns on the Bus, a liberal Catholic social justice group based in Washington.

CNN’s Steve Brusk and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.