Joe Biden's "Oops!" vs. Dick Armey's "Slur"

The Times gives front-page play to Sen. Joe Biden's latest controversial statement, but gives him the benefit of the doubt that it was a simple mistake ("Oops!")

Democratic presidential candidate (for now, anyway) Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware got headlines for all the wrong reasons yesterday when he referred to Sen. Barack Obama, who's also running for president, as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" in an interview with the New York Observer.

"Biden Unwraps His Bid for '08 With an Oops!" read the headline over Adam Nagourney's Thursday story. Credit the Times for putting it on the front page, and to Nagourney for bringing up Biden's equally strange comment last summer that aired on C-Span: "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

But as Mark Finkelstein noted on NewsBusters, the Times' headline does give Biden the benefit of the doubt that the remark was simply an "oops!," a gaffe, and not a reflection of Biden's real feelings toward blacks.

Back in 1995, when then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a conservative Republican, called gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank "Barney Fag" (Armey immediately corrected himself and later apologized to Frank) he didn't get the benefit of the doubt from Times' headline writers. The headline to the lead story back on January 28, 1995 made it clear that Armey intended to "slur" his colleague, no "oops!" about it: "No. 2 House Leader Refers to Colleague With Anti-Gay Slur."