Vice President Joe Biden drew rebuke this week from the Anti-Defamation League for using an anti-Jewish slur, "Shylocks," while speaking at a conference for the Legal Services Corporation. Biden used the word while telling a story about his son's efforts to help military families avoid foreclosure after they returned from serving abroad:
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 these women and men while overseas. [The Hill]
The term "Shylock" derives from the name of a Jewish character in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. As the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman explained, the term is used to describe "unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with servicemen and women." Foxman added that "the vice president should have been more careful" during his speech.
Biden, for his part, has reportedly apologized, calling his comment a "poor choice of words."
Biden has come under fire in the past for a number of racist comments. For example, he joked in 2006 that "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent," and said in 2007 that Barack Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."