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'My comments on Indian-Americans were phrased wrongly'

December 14, 2007 09:41 IST

Presidential hopeful and a senior Democrat has defended his civil rights record even while making the point that his remarks against minorities and certain ethnic groups, including Indian-Americans, may have been phrased wrongly.

"I got involved in politics because of the civil rights movement. It's the overwhelming core of my support in my home state. I get the overwhelming majority, over 95 per cent of the vote of minorities in my state," Joseph Biden, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

"I may have phrased those things wrongly, but when I talked about the Indian population what I was making the point was they're building families, they're coming buying businesses, just like those Italian immigrants would do," he said.

Biden was asked at a Democratic debate in Iowa to clarify things relating to race - about his colleague Senator Barack Obama being "clean and articulate"; and Indians working in a 7-Eleven convenience store.

"Do these gaffes or misunderstandings or however you would characterize them indicate you're uncomfortable talking about race or are people just being too sensitive?" Biden was asked.

"The point I was making about inner-city Washington was a point that...minorities start off at a disadvantage. They start off with a gap, and achievement gap that exist before they even walk into school. It may be possible because I speak so bluntly that people misunderstand," he said, adding no one who knows me in my state, no one who I've worked with in the US Congress has ever wondered about my commitment to civil rights and civil liberties."

The Delaware Democrat's track record was defended by none other than Senator Obama himself.

"I've worked with Biden. I've seen his leadership and I have absolutely no doubt about what is in his heart and the commitment that he's made with respect to racial equality in

this country. So, I will provide some testimony, as they say in church...that Joe is on the right side of the issues and is fighting every day for a better America," Obama said.

Last year many in the Indian-American community were shocked at what Senator Biden had said during the course of the campaign trail.

"You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent," Biden said in a C-Span series titled Road to The White House.

"I've had a great relationship (meaning with Indian Americans). 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," he had said.

The Senator and his supporters argued that the comments were taken out of context.


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