Carney: First Black Governor ‘Doesn’t Have a Point’ in Condemning Biden’s ‘Chains’ Remarks

By Melanie Arter | August 16, 2012 | 2:53 PM EDT

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP Photo)

( – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat and the first black governor, does not have a point in saying it was inappropriate for Vice President Joe Biden to tell a Virginia crowd recently that Republicans are going to “put y'all back in chains” in illustrating where the GOP stands on Wall Street reform.

“Let’s go to the vice president’s comments. Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat, he basically called them inappropriate - the comments – he said he can’t defend it. Do you think that the first African-American governor since Reconstruction is as you put it trying to make something out of nothing and distracting policy debates or does he have a point?” a reporter asked during the White House press conference.

“He doesn’t have a point. The vice president was talking about Wall Street reform,” Carney replied, adding that anyone who speaks publicly for a living can have their comments “misunderstood or taken out of context and made a big deal of.”

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During a campaign stop at the Institute for Advanced Learning in Danville, Va., Biden told the crowd that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promised to, in his first 100 days, “let the big banks once again write their own rules–unchain Wall Street. They’re gonna put y'all back in chains,” Biden said.

“Every Republican’s voted for it. Look at what they value and look at their budget and what they’re proposing. Romney wants to let the – he said in the first 100 days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules – unchain Wall Street. They’re gonna put you all back in chains,” the vice president said.

In responding to Biden’s remarks, Wilder told CNN, “Slavery is nothing to joke about,” and he said “Biden separated himself from what he accused the people of doing.”

“As a matter of fact, what he said is they are going to do something to y’all, not to me. Not us. So he was still involved with that separate American,” Wilder said. “As far as I am concerned, the president would not associate himself with those remarks. And I expect as the days go forward there will be more clarity associated with what the president feels about what Joe Biden said.”

At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Carney said, “Everyone knows – and I know you know – and everyone who watched the tape who knows the vice president, knows that he was talking about Wall Street reform.”

“Don’t you think it speaks to the sensitivity of using words like that?” the reporter who asked.

“There’s no question that there are sensitivities around words, but again, as I just said – the vice president, the president, Governor Romney, Congressman Ryan, others in the arena go out there and speak all the time,” Carney said.

“They answer questions all the time, and I think that it’s important to acknowledge in the remarkable amount of air time for something that is so weightless that is being devoted to this subject that you also make clear that you know …that the vice president was talking about Wall Street reform,” he added.

“But you don’t understand why Wilder would be offended by those comments?” the reporter asked.

“I understand that one person has expressed his opinion that he’s offended by it –” Carney replied.

“This isn’t one person. This is the first African-American governor since Reconstruction,” the reporter added.

“The vice president’s intention was clear. What he was talking about is clear,” Carney said.

ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper chimed in: “It’s actually not clear.”

“Is it not clear to you? Was he not talking about Wall Street reform?” Carney asked Tapper.

“Personally, I think when you use the word ‘chains’ in a crowd with many African-Americans, you better be careful of what you’re talking about,” Tapper replied.

Carney defended Biden again, pointing out that the vice president “at a later event made clear that his word choice was off, that he had been using similar phrases … saying similar things with slightly different phrasing but the purpose of that section of his comments was to talk about the absolute need to ensure that Wall Street reform is not repealed.”

“And you know that that’s not, that this is not what the campaign is about. The campaign is about do we repeal Wall Street reform or do we continue to implement it,” Carney added.