The decade's most triggering comedy
President Joe Biden this week told an audience of black students in Atlanta that he was arrested during the civil rights movement, a claim that drew four Pinocchios from a liberal newspaper.
“The struggle to protect voting rights has never been borne by one group alone. We saw Freedom Riders of every race, leaders of every faith, marching arm in arm — and yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress of the United States and in the presidency,” Biden said in his speech about voting rights.
“I did not live the struggles of Douglass, Tubman, King, Lewis, Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner, countless others known and unknown. I did not walk in the shoes of generation of students who walked these grounds. But I walked other grounds, because I’m so damn old I was there as well. They think I’m kidding, man. It seems like yesterday, the first time I got arrested— anyway,” he said to laughter. “But their struggles, here, they’re the ones that opened my eyes as a high school student in the late 50’s and early 60’s. They got me more engaged in the work of my life.”
In an expansive fact check, The Washington Post gave the claim its highest rating for falsehoods, four Pinocchios, which means simply “whoppers.”
The paper, which strongly supported Biden throughout the 2020 campaign and endorsed his run for president, recounted numerous times Biden has claimed he was taken home by police, but even in his memoir, Biden never claims to have been arrested.
“It’s possible that police might have taken the young Biden home from a dangerous situation — as he said twice — but that’s not an arrest,” the Post said. “Moreover, one would think such a memorable incident would have made it into one of Biden’s memoirs. Instead, it’s not mentioned in the book that specifically references the conversation with his mother about joining the ticket. Ordinarily, one would think such a memorable moment in a young man’s life would have merited an earlier recounting.”
“The primary source for this story is Biden — and we’ve learned over the years that he is not always a reliable source. He appears to be citing his mother to enhance his civil rights credentials — which we have noted he has exaggerated before — but too many elements do not add up to give this ‘arrest’ more credibility than his previous claims of getting in trouble with the law,” the paper said.
On the campaign trail, Biden claimed he was arrested in the 1970s in South Africa as he tried to visit Nelson Mandela in prison. Biden said he was arrested in Soweto, a suburb of Johannesburg, a city in the northeast of the country. But at the time, Mandela was being held on Robben Island, near Cape Town in the southwest part of the country. The two sites are 900 miles apart.
But Biden never mentioned the arrest in his memoir, and The New York Times also said, “A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest. South African arrest records are not readily available in the United States.”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to [email protected].