On PBS, Cokie Roberts falsely suggested Biden's reference to "Bosniaks" was a gaffe


During coverage of the October 2 vice-presidential debate on PBS' Charlie Rose, Rose asked, "Did either of them make any mistakes that you noticed?" National Public Radio senior news analyst Cokie Roberts responded that Sen. Joe Biden "talked about the Bosniaks." Roberts later said: "[I]f [Gov. Sarah Palin] had said 'Bosniak,' everybody would be making a big deal of it, you know." In fact, Biden correctly referred to certain residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina as Bosniaks. According to the U.S. State Department, as of 2002, the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina consisted of the following ethnic groups: "Bosniak 48.3%, Serb 34.0%, Croat 15.4%, others 2.3%."

The CIA World Factbook states: "Bosniak has replaced Muslim as an ethnic term in part to avoid confusion with the religious term Muslim -- an adherent of Islam."

In a May 11 speech, U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Charles English repeatedly referenced "Bosniaks" and said: "Bosniak political leaders must examine their own their political conduct within governing institutions, particularly where they are the majority, and ask themselves, is this conduct assuaging concerns among other ethnic groups about domination or contributing to it?"

Biden said during the debate:

Look what we did in Bosnia. We took Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks, being told by everyone, I was told by everyone that this would mean that they had been killing each other for a thousand years, it would never work. There's a relatively stable government there now as in Kosovo.

From October 2 broadcast of PBS' Charlie Rose:

ROSE: Did either of them make any mistakes that you noticed?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (presidential historian): I didn't really see any gaffes, nor were there many Tina Fey moments, or what might come on Saturday Night Live. The only one might be when she asked what might trigger a nuclear war, and she went into, "A nuclear war, that's the be-all and the end-all. That's bad. A lot of people, gone." I can see them using that as a moment, but other than that, no, they both handled everything pretty well.

ROBERTS: He talked about the Bosniaks.

ROSE: The Bosniaks, yes.

ROBERTS: The Bosniaks. If she had said --

GOODWIN: Oh, and there was McKiernan versus McClellan, the name of the general in Afghanistan.

ROBERTS: If she had said "Bosniak," everybody would be making a big deal of it, you know.

GOODWIN: Correct.

ROSE: Yeah, and some people took note of the fact that Senator Biden didn't correct at that point as a suggestion of his restraint during the entire debate.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy
Cokie Roberts
Charlie Rose (show)
Joe Biden, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.