--- clean (one of 3 qualities missing from the contemporary african american presidential candidate, except Barack Obama, according to Joseph Biden, February 2007)
--- bright (one of 3 qualities missing from the contemporary african american presidential candidate, except Barack Obama, according to Joseph Biden, February 2007)
--- articulate (one of 3 qualities missing from the contemporary african american presidential candidate, except Barack Obama, according to Joseph Biden, February 2007)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Joe Biden planned to spend Wednesday focusing on his official announcement that he was running for president, but the Delaware Democrat instead found himself defending remarks he made to the New York Observer about his Democratic opponents.
In the article published Wednesday, Biden is quoted evaluating presidential rivals Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. His remarks about Obama, the only African-American serving in the Senate, drew the most scrutiny.
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."
Biden issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying: "I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone. That was not my intent and I expressed that to Sen. Obama."
Biden also spoke to reporters in a conference call Wednesday afternoon and said the remark was taken out of context.
"Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican Party has produced at least since I've been around," Biden said on the call. "And he's fresh. He's new. He's smart. He's insightful. And I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the world 'clean.'"
Biden said he was referring to a phrase used by his mother.
"My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack," Biden said.
Obama, in a brief off-camera interview in a Senate hallway, said he thinks Biden "didn't intend to offend" anyone.
"He called me," Obama said. "I told him it wasn't necessary. We have got more important things to worry about. We have got Iraq. We have got health care. We have got energy. This is low on the list."
"He was very gracious and I have no problem with Joe Biden," Obama added.
Later on Wednesday, Obama, in a written statement, said "I didn't take Sen. Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate."