Indian Americans Past Biden’s ‘7-Eleven’ Remark, GOP Leader Says

By Josiah Ryan | August 25, 2008 | 7:37 PM EDT

Sen. Joe Biden’s

(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Joe Biden’s (D-Del.) remark in 2006 that it was impossible to enter a 7-Eleven or Dunkin Donuts in Delaware without a “slight Indian accent” will not play a significant role in this fall’s election, a leading Republican member of the Indian-American community told CNSNews.com on Monday.
 
“Biden is very close to the Indian community,” said Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar, chairman of the Indian-American Republican Council. “They [the comments] probably won’t be very significant. I don’t know how many heard, but he apologized, and it won’t have any impact. I don’t think they will look at that anymore.”
 
The Indian-American Republican Council, which advocates “less government, more liberty, and a strong national defense,” describes itself as “the only national organization in America representing Indian American Republicans”
 
In July 2006, Biden was caught on C-SPAN boasting about his relationship with the Indian-American community in his home state of Delaware.
 
"I've had a great relationship,” said Biden. “In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking.”
 
At the time, these remarks drew a hail of criticism from Indian-Americans, including Vijayanagar.
 
"Senator Biden will be surprised to hear that I am a cardiothoracic surgeon, leading a national association of Indian Americans who are physicians, attorneys, and small business owners.” Vijayanagar said in a statement issued then. “It's amazing to know we don't all work at Dunkin Donuts or the local 7-Eleven.”
 
“The contributions to America by Indian Americans in the fields of medicine, education, science, and business have been well-documented,” he said. “We're not asking Senator Biden to apologize for his embarrassing, stereotypical comments. However, we do appreciate knowing what he really thinks of his Indian-American constituents in Delaware.”
 
“Senator Biden will be really shocked that there will be another Indian-American in Congress,” said Raj Bhakta, who at the time was running for a U.S. House seat from Pennsylvania as a Republican. “I will be sure to stop by his office when I get there. I would not be bringing coffee.”
 
In the face of such criticism, Biden’s office quickly clarified his comment.
 
"The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades. It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle-class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses," said then Biden spokeswoman Margaret Aitken.
 
Aitken, who no longer works for Biden’s Senate office, told the Internet publication Delaware Online in a story published Monday that she thinks Biden’s “candor is refreshing” and believes it will be an asset for the Obama-Biden ticket. 
 
John Samples, director of Center for Representative Government at the libertarian Cato Institute, told CNSNews.com he does not think comments about race will count against Biden in the November election.
 
“On the whole it’s very unlikely this issue will work against him,” said Samples. “I think it is unlikely that it will blow up and become something larger because the Democrats are protected against those kinds of problems.”
 
“In a sense the racial issues are tied up with African-Americans, and the Democrats have a candidate who is part African-American, so I think the ticket will be beyond any questions about those issues,” said Samples.
 
Biden's comments about Indian-Americans were not the only remarks he has made in his 29-year Senate career that some minorities found to be offensive.
 
When Biden met with the Washington Post’s editorial board in 2007 to answer questions about his presidential campaign he suggested that race had something to do with the failure of the District of Columbia’s failing school system.
 
"There's less than 1 percent of the population in Iowa that is African-American," Biden told The Post. "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."
 
In an interview with The New York Observer in February 2007 Biden also infamously referred to Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
 
“I mean, that’s a story book man,” he said.

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