Biden on Negative Tone: 'You Don't Want to Encourage Fringe People'

Sen. Joe Biden tells Terry Moran that some attacks are "really off the wall."

ByABC News
October 13, 2008, 12:01 PM

Oct. 13, 2008— -- Sen. Joe Biden claims that some of the personal attacks against Sen. Barack Obama are "really off the wall" and warned his Republican rivals that such vitriol can sometimes be "stuff you can't control."

In an interview with "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., the Democratic vice presidential nominee said it was "fair enough" for Republican presidential candidate John McCain to raise questions about Obama's relationship to 1960s anti-war radical Bill Ayers.

Last week, McCain told ABC News' Charlie Gibson that Ayers, a co-founder of a Vietnam-era group that plotted attacks on the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon, "wasn't a guy in the neighborhood. [Obama] launched his political career in his living room, in Mr. Ayers' living room."

"I'm not saying they shouldn't [raise the issue], but they should put it in a context," Biden said. "Hey, this guy Bill Ayers, Barack was 8 years old when this guy did these bad things. Barack serves on a, you know, board or he lives in his neighborhood. What do you think about that? We think that's awful. That's OK. But to run an ad and saying Barack Obama -- I forget the exact word -- consorts with terrorists, and put this guy's picture up? Come on! That's over the top."

Watch the story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights hero, said Saturday that the McCain campaign was sowing the seeds of hatred and division. Biden called the reaction of some members of the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies "scary stuff," but said that he isn't concerned for Obama's safety on the campaign trail.

"I'm no more concerned about it, as long as John pushes it back in a box and Gov. Palin pushes it back in a box, because what you don't want to do is encourage -- I don't think they intentionally do it -- encourage people who really are fringe people."

"That stuff you can't control," he said. "I don't think John McCain believes that, but you know, when you fool around, like these ads now the average person probably looks at that picture they put up there and think it's an al Qaeda guy or something. So I don't know. John seems to have figured it out. He looks like he's trying to tamp it down."