Joe Biden Omission Watch: Iowa Schools Do Better Due to Less Minorities

Now that Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate, will liberals in the media question the Delaware senator about a Washington Post interview from October 2007 in which he cited low minority population as a reason Iowa schools are performing better than those in Washington D.C.? Biden asserted in the October 25, 2007 article, "There's less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with." [Emphasis added] The Post reexamined the quote in a generally positive editorial that ran on Sunday. The paper took pains to note that in 2007, "The Biden campaign quickly issued a statement asserting that the candidate was referring to socioeconomic status, not racial differences." The editorial proceeded to simply chide Biden for being too free with his comments. But would a Republican such as Mike Huckabee receive the benefit of the doubt? For that matter, would the GOP's nominee, John McCain, be given a free ride over a similarly incendiary remark? At the very least, now that Biden is the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate, he should be pressured in interviews this week and beyond to offer more clarity to the remark. Here is an excerpt from the Post's August 24 editorial:

With a knack for self-defeating and insensitive verbosity, Mr. Biden at times has been his own worst enemy. It has been said that, having been lampooned for this filibustering, he became more disciplined. Perhaps, but we saw a glimpse of the old Biden when he met with The Post's editorial board during his short-lived presidential campaign. Asked about failing schools, Mr. Biden seemed to suggest that one reason so many of the District's schools fail is the city's large minority population and contrasted D.C. schools with those in Iowa. "There's less than 1 percent of the population in Iowa that is African American," Mr. Biden said. "There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with." The Biden campaign quickly issued a statement asserting that the candidate was referring to socioeconomic status, not racial differences. The lesson we took was not to think that Mr. Biden is a racist -- we don't -- but to worry about his tendency to speak too much before he thinks enough.

On a related note, the MRC's Ken Shepherd pointed out that Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter claimed in a August 23 column that "no one ever accused Biden of being a racist." As Mr. Shepherd pointed out, this is despite instances such as Biden's insulting comments about Indian Americans working at Dunkin' Donuts.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org