KITTERY, Maine – Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday said America will follow the terrorists who posted videos showing the beheading of two journalists “to the gates of hell.”
Speaking at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Biden said the Islamic State militant group responsible for beheading James Foley and Steven Sotloff won’t intimidate the United States.
“The American people are so much stronger, so much more resolved than any enemy can fully understand,” Biden said. “As a nation, we’re united. And when people harm Americans, we don’t retreat, we don’t forget.”
A videotape showing Sotloff’s murder was broadcast Tuesday, two weeks after the same group released a video showing Foley’s killing. Foley was from New Hampshire and Sotloff attended school there, bringing their killings close to home at the shipyard situated on an island in a river that runs between Maine and New Hampshire.
“We take care of those who are grieving and when that’s finished, they should know we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice,” Biden said. “Because hell is where they’ll reside.”
Biden’s used “gates of hell” before, invoking it in an October 2012 vice presidential debate when talking about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The vice president visited the shipyard to see the results of an agreement between labor and management that promotes collaboration and efficiency.
“This is what industry should do across the board,” Biden said while visiting with workers in a training area that included a full-size mock-up of part of a hull from a Los Angeles-class submarine.
Joining Biden at the shipyard were Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, along with Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud of Maine. Shaheen, Shea-Porter and Pingree are up for re-election. Michaud is running for governor in Maine.
Biden is a potential 2016 Democratic candidate for president and trips to the shipyard have become a popular stop for those seeking their party’s nomination.
After the shipyard visit, Biden and Shea-Porter made an unannounced visit to the Old Ferry Landing restaurant in nearby Portsmouth, New Hampshire, startling lunchgoers, who broke into applause. He snagged a young woman’s cellphone and took a picture with her, then kissed a baby. The two later had ice cream, and posed for more photos.
The 214-year-old Navy yard that repairs and overhauls nuclear submarines in Kittery, Maine, has survived three reviews from the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, including the most recent in 2005. The Defense Department has pressed for another round but has been rebuffed by Congress.
Shaheen said the congressional delegation will stand in the way of any attempts to shut down the facility, which employs about 6,000 people and which she described as an economic engine for Maine and New Hampshire.
Paul O’Connor, a union leader who invited the vice president to visit the shipyard, said he was glad Biden came to see innovations that he said could be carried through other parts of the government.
“We’ve given the vice president a glimpse of what’s going on at the shipyard. We just scratched the surface,” he said.