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In 1993, then-Senator Joe Biden said this during Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings:

I, too, heard that speech and, for the public listening to this, the Senator made a very moving and eloquent speech, as a son of the Confederacy, acknowledging that it was time to change and yield to a position that Senator Carol Moseley-Braun raised on the Senate floor, not granting a Federal charter to an organization made up of many fine people who continue to display the Confederate flag as a symbol. The charter would have given them the right, the imprimatur of the Federal Government, to do that.

The context is that Biden was applauding a speech given by then-Senator Howell Heflin in which he called for the federal government to deny a design patent for the logo of the neoconfederate organization United Daughters of the American Confederacy, a logo which features the Confederate Battle Flag.

Now he was praising someone who criticized the organization. But my question is, has Vice President Biden subsequently commented on his statement that United Daughters of the American Confederacy has “many fine people” in it? Has he stood by his remarks, or expressed regret for them, or what?

EDIT: This question has been closed on the grounds that it’s intended to discredit Biden. Let me assure everyone that I have no intent to discredit, in fact I’m a Biden supporter. I just saw this clip (or a shortened version of it) being circulated by a lot of Trump supporters on Twitter. So I tracked down the original video and then posted a question about it to see if Biden has retracted these comments, and thus if Trump supporters were attacking him unfairly.

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Has Biden apologized for saying a neoconfederate organization had many fine people?

There appears to be no evidence that Biden has apologized. A search of the Congressional Record and Biden's votes shows no reason to believe that he should apologize.

The issue before the Senate was related to a design patent that included an image of the Confederate Battle Flag. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), among other activities, provides charity and support. Generally, this is sufficient for most to acknowledge that an organization has "many fine people"; however Sen. Biden's votes were consistent with denying the renewal of the design patent.

Now he was praising someone who criticized the organization.

As for Sen. Biden applauding Sen. Heflin for changing his vote, one must consider that Sen. Helfin's relatives were deeply involved with the Confederacy. His great-grandfather was a signer of Alabama's secession, his grandfather was a Confederate Army surgeon, many of his relatives were involved with the UDC. Sen. Heflin was not critical of the organization. He recognized that the Confederate Battle Flag should not be acknowledged by a design patent. See Sen. Heflin's remarks.


The renewal of the design patent for the United Daughters of the Confederacy was first intoduced by Sen. Thurmond as S.41. This bill was rejected by the Judiciary Committee and never came to the floor for a vote.

Subsequently, Sen. Helms introduce S.Amdt.610 in an attempt to revive the renewal. This amendment was discussed and voted on the Senate floor. See: Congressional Record, July 22, 1993.

During the various remarks, some Senators spoke of the charitable work of the UDC — none rejected the claim.

Mr. THURMOND. [...]

The UDC enjoys a distinguished tradition of patriotic endeavors. At the beginning of World War I, the 100,000 members offered their services in whatever capacity needed to then President Wilson. During that war, the UDC financially supported 70 hospital beds at the American Military Hospital at Neuilly, France. Financial support was given to French and Belgian orphans. UDC members purchased over $24 million worth of war bonds and savings stamps and provided almost $1 million worth of support to the Red Cross and other war relief efforts.

During World War II, the United Daughters of the Confederacy continued to offer its services to the U.S. Government for war relief. They provided financial support, donated ambulances, established a blood plasma unit, sold millions of dollars in war bonds and were ultimately recognized by the War Department and the Red Cross for its outstanding work and contributions. This patriotic service continued during the Korean conflict, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.

Today, the UDC donates thousands of dollars and hours annually working with the Nation's veterans in VA medical centers and nursing homes. There are currently representatives and deputies from the UDC on duty in VA medical centers in 18 States.

Mr. President, furthering education is also a primary goal for the UDC. For example, in the last 8 years they have awarded over a half-million dollars in scholarships. The UDC also has a scholarship to provide women over the age of 30 with the opportunity to continue their education. Additionally, the UDC gives academic awards based solely on merit and to recipients chosen by their respective academy or college. Schools which are participants in these awards include, the United States Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, Military Academy, and the University of Virginia.

Ms. MOSELEY-BRAUN. [...]

There are a number of fine organizations throughout this country that are well known that do not enjoy or do not have design patents. But this organization, by a matter of oversight or whatever, has-this last year, as was brought to the attention of the Judiciary Committee, and the design patent was refused or withheld. Now the Senator from South Carolina has come to the floor attempting to undo the work of the Judiciary Committee, attempting to undo the decision of that committee that a design patent was not necessary in this case.

I submit further that the design patent is not needed in terms of the work of the organization. The Senator from South Carolina has gone on at great length to talk about the charitable work of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The fact of the matter is the refusal to extend this extraordinary honor by this body does not stop them from doing whatever it is they do, from continuing their work in the community and the like.

[...]

They can continue to use the insignia. Nothing changes in terms of what it is they do. The only issue is whether or not this body is prepared to put its imprimatur on the Confederate insignia used by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

After more remarks and questions, a vote was held.

Question: On the Motion to Table (motion to table Helms amdt. no. 610)

The vote failed 48-52 - Sen. Biden voted Yea
Had the votes succeeded, the amendment would have been rejected.

After further remarks, another vote has held.

Question: On the Motion to Reconsider (motion to reconsider roll call vote no.206)

The motion was agreed to 76-24 - Sen. Biden voted Yea
This vote allowed a second vote to kill the amendment.

Question: On the Motion to Table (Upon reconsideration motion to table Helms amdt. no. 610)

The motion to table was agreed to 75-25 - Sen. Biden voted Yea
The amendment was tabled, thus killing the amendment.

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  • For the record, I don’t think it’s true that UDC has many fine people. But regardless I’m accepting your “no he hasn’t” answer, at least until someone posts an answer showing that he has. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 18 at 17:56
  • Is there any indication why Senator Nunn voted to have a second vote, but then voted not to kill it? – Bobson Aug 20 at 5:30
  • @Bobson - No, Sen. Nunn neither spoke for nor against the amendment. A quick search for news clips revealed no comments. He had been a Senator for only eight months, but I choose not to speculate further, – Rick Smith Aug 20 at 10:41
  • @Bobson - It seems I confused 1972 with 1992, please ignore the eight months. – Rick Smith Aug 20 at 12:02

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