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Vice President Joe Biden’s ‘Indian Accent’ Strikes Again

Posted on the 27 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Vice President Joe Biden’s ‘Indian accent’ strikes again

Vice President Joe Biden. Photo credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund

US Vice President Joe Biden appeared to slip into an Indian accent during a speech in New Hampshire on Thursday morning. But did he actually? And even if he did, does anyone really care?

Whilst talking about outsourcing call center jobs at the manufacturing plant, Biden’s voice changed during the sentence, “How many times do you get the call, ‘I’d like to talk to you about your credit card’?” Some say it was intended to be an Indian accent; Biden appeared to quickly realize his mistake, and he had switched back to his normal accent by the last two words.

But was it really an attempt at an Indian accent?

Not the first time.  This “faux-pas” has been described by New York Daily News as “yet another foot-in-mouth moment” for Biden, while The Daily Mail described the US Vice President as “hardly known for being apropos”, and helpfully included a list of his top blunders to demonstrate. Unfortunately for Biden, this incident was immediately compared to his 2006 ‘caught-on-microphone’ gaffe: “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.”

Indian, Russian or American?  Confusion has arisen over which, if any accent, Biden was attempting. As New York Magazine said, “It wasn’t a very thick accent, and it only lasted a moment, so it’s kind of hard to tell.” The role of the Indian call center stereotype in the “American consciousness” and Biden’s reference to Bangalore led to assumptions that the accent in his role play was intended as Indian. However, seconds later he switched subject to a TV advert: “This is Nancy, can I talk to supervisor.” This presumably referred to the Discover Card commercials, which feature a Russian or Eastern European call centre, and a character called Peggy.

“I don’t see the issue here. He impersonates a vice president every waking second and no one gives a sh*t,” commented someone going by the name RagnarOdinsson on the YouTube posting.

Entertaining.  For some, at least, this clip has provided pure entertainment. Jon Bershad at Mediaite thinks there is “nothing more fascinating than watching the exact moment where a person realises they’re making a bad mistake.” As Biden visibly stops and catches himself before the end of the sentence, this clip definitely falls into that category.

Offensive?  National Journal’s Theresa Poulson asked ‘Should we be offended by Vice-President Joe Biden Today?’, to which Atlantic Wire’s Eric Randall answered, “[I]f you have to ask, you’re probably not very offended.” Randall personally is “not sure this is the slam-dunk example” of Biden’s inappropriate comments. Heather Timmons on New York Times India Ink blog questioned the “perplexing phenomenon” that Indian accents are seen as less offensive than others, citing The Simpsons’ Apu as an example. However, New York Magazine’s Dan Amira contradicted her; “If it was meant to be a Russian impression, Biden is in the clear. According to the rules of American society, fake Russian accents, unlike fake Indian accents, are totally fine!”

More on faux pas

  • Which Shakespeare was that meant to be?
  • Biden caught napping during Obama’s deficit speech
  • ‘Sh*t white girls say… to Black girls’ goes viral

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