Joe Biden claimed twice recently that he met with Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors when he was vice president, despite the fact that he was already out of office when the attack took place. His campaign said Biden misspoke and was referring to a different meeting he had after the Sandy Hook shooting. But the flub was reminiscent of Biden’s past misstatements and his tendency to embellish biographical details.
In 1988, Biden was forced to drop out of the presidential race after he was found to have exaggerated his academic record, plagiarized a law school essay, and used quotes from other politicians in his speeches without attribution. But these are not the only questionable claims Biden has made. Here are six other times Biden was caught embellishing his biography:
1. Biden said his helicopter was “forced down” near Osama bin Laden’s lair in Afghanistan
Biden claimed in multiple speeches in 2008 that he knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding because his helicopter had been “forced down” nearby in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me,” said Biden. “Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.” In another speech, he claimed al Qaeda is “in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan … where my helicopter was recently forced down.”
He later referred to “the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down.”
“John McCain wants to know where bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where,” said Biden.
The helicopter actually landed to wait out a snowstorm, according to the Associated Press.
Biden, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel were on a Senate junket in Afghanistan when their helicopter crossed paths with the storm, according to reports. The pilot landed as a precaution, and a U.S. military convoy picked up the senators and took them to the main American airbase.
“Other than getting a little cold, it was fine,” Kerry told the APwhen asked about the incident. “We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs,” he joked.
2. Biden said he was a coal miner
While running for president in 2008, Biden told the United Mine Workers that he was a coal miner.
“I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I am a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal, Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “It’s nice to be back in coal country. It’s a different accent [in Virginia], but it’s the same deal. We were taught that our faith and our family was the only really important thing, and our faith and our family informed everything we did.”
The Biden campaign later told the AP that his comment was a “joke.” But it echoed another false claim he had made about coming from a family of coal miners during his 1988 campaign.
In a 1988 speech, Biden referred to “my ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours.” That line was plagiarized from a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock, whose family actually did work in the mines.
In 2004, Biden acknowledged that he did not have family members who worked in mining.
“Hell, I might be president now if it weren’t for the fact I said I had an uncle who was a coal miner. Turns out I didn’t have anybody in the coal mines, you know what I mean? I tried that crap — it didn’t work,” he said during an interview with Jon Stewart.
3. Biden said he was “shot at” in Iraq
In 2007, Biden claimed he was “shot at” during the Iraq War while visiting the Green Zone, the heavily guarded area in the middle of Baghdad where the United States embassy is based.
“Let’s start telling the truth,” he said. “Number one, you take all the troops out — you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at.”
When asked for details about the shooting, a Biden campaign aide told the Hill that the then-senator was staying at a hotel in the Green Zone when a mortar landed several hundred yards away.
“A soldier came by to explain what happened and said if the mortar fire continued, they would need to proceed to a shelter,” the aide said.
4. Biden said he called Slobodan Milošević a “damn war criminal” to his face
Biden met with Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević in 1993, at the height of the siege of Sarajevo. According to Biden’s book Promises to Keep, when Milošević asked what he thought about him, Biden responded: “I think you’re a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one.”
In 2008, Biden aide Ted Kaufman, who was at the meeting and also worked on Biden’s 2008 campaign, told the Washington Post that the account was accurate. However, three other Biden aides who were at the meeting declined to corroborate the story.
John Ritch, a Senate aide who attended the Milošević meeting, told the Post he did not recall Biden making such a dramatic pronouncement.
“The legend grows,” said Ritch. “But Biden certainly introduced into the conversation the concept that Milošević was a war criminal. Milošević reacted with aplomb.”
5. Biden said he participated in sit-ins at segregated restaurants and movie theaters
In the 1970s and 1980s, Biden regularly claimed to have been an activist in the civil rights movement and said he participated in sit-ins along U.S. Route 40 in Delaware in 1961.
”When I was 17 years old, I participated in sit-ins to desegregate restaurants and movie houses in my state, and my stomach turned upon hearing the voices of Faubus and Barnett, and my soul raged upon seeing the dogs of Bull Connor,” said Biden in 1983.
Biden also claimed to have organized a boycott of a segregated restaurant in Wilmington called The Pit when he was in high school after the restaurant refused to serve a black member of his football team. “I organized a civil rights boycott because they wouldn’t serve black kids. One of our football players was black and we went there and they said they wouldn’t serve him. And I said to the others, ‘Hey, we can’t go in there.’ So we all left,” said Biden.
The football player contradicted Biden’s account and said Biden was not aware of the incident until later.
“They weren’t aware of what happened,” said the football player in 1987. “I was only 16 then. It was my problem and my battle for me to work out. They were oblivious to it until later.”
When Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race amid his plagiarism scandal, he said the extent of his civil rights participation was working at an all-black swimming pool for a summer in college. “During the 1960s, I was in fact very concerned about the civil rights movement. I was not an activist. I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Delaware,” he said. “I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.”
6. Biden said he criticized President George W. Bush during lengthy private meetings in the Oval Office
Biden claimed in 2009 that he spent “a lot of hours alone” with President George W. Bush and bluntly rebuked the president over his foreign policy decisions.
“I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office,” Biden told CNN, “‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘I’m a leader.’ And I said: ‘Mr. President, turn around and look behind you. No one is following.’”
Bush aides told Fox News in 2009 that they did not recall Biden ever meeting alone with the president or making such a comment.
“The president would never sit through two hours of Joe Biden,” Candida P. Wolff, Bush’s White House liaison to Congress, told Fox News. “I don’t ever remember Biden being in the Oval. He was such a blowhard on all that stuff — there wasn’t a reason to bring him in.”
Habitual lying is a sign of bad character. Another lie is even worse, as reported by Jack Fowler:
In the #MeTooMaybe hoopla over the former vice president’s hair-sniffing and hand-slipping and personal space-invading, much cataloguing of Joe Biden’s peccadillos has emerged — for example, in Jonah Goldberg’s new column. It’s a handy summary.
But missed in these lists is a deeply troubling — I guess the right word is “lie.” It is one that Biden contrived — or at least perpetuated — over a deeply painful event: the death of his first wife and daughter. The lie hides in plain sight, amongst all the other oddball anecdotes (like his vowing to use his rosary beads as a choking device), maybe because it is so amazingly brazen, and because of its complete lack of being — here, I guess the right word might be “unnecessary.”
The sad story is 29-year-old senator-elect Biden received the horrible call in December, 1972, that there was an accident in which his wife Neilia and baby daughter Naomi were killed, and his young sons Beau and Hunter severely hurt. Mrs. Biden seems to have driven into a busy intersection, into the path of an oncoming truck. Its driver was Curtis Dunn. Investigators found him blameless. Of no surprise, according to his family, his involvement in the deaths of Mrs. Biden and her daughter weighed on Dunn until his own death in 1999.
It was a heartbreaking story all around, and with officials leaving no doubt of the truck driver’s complete innocence, what was the point of doing or saying anything more than letting Neilia and Naomi Biden rest in peace? As for Joe Biden, the tragedy was so utter that the accident’s circumstances were best left unremarked. Never mind unembellished.
But embellished they became. When exactly, we don’t know. Why? That’s a question the answer to which is unfathomable — or if for political purposes, utterly deplorable. For some reason, the evidence shows, in the early 2000s, Joe Biden began to remark in public that his wife had died at the hands of someone who “allegedly . . . drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch.” That Curtis Dunn “was an errant driver who stopped to drink.” That drunk-driver story spread into news accounts. The Dunn family, who had strong sympathy for Biden, was shocked by the sullying of their now-dead father. They wrote the senator and asked him to stop and reminded him of the exonerating investigation. When that didn’t happen, they went public. Per a 2010 Biden profile in The Atlantic:
For many years, he described the driver of the truck that struck and killed his first wife and their daughter in December 1972 as drunk, which he apparently was not. The tale could hardly be more tragic; why add in a baseless charge? The family of the truck driver has labored to correct the record, but Biden made the reference to drunkenness as recently as 2007, needlessly resurrecting a false and painful accusation.
This is truly disturbing. But by our current standards, hair-sniffing rates condemnation, while the false accusation of an innocent dead man, and the embellishment of a personal tragedy — could the Biden tragedy be more tragic? — are forgotten and/or ignored.
This says so much more about Biden the man than any too-close shoulder grasp ever could. It also says plenty about the contrition junkies who influence America’s news cycle, and, as Jim Geraghty pointed out recently, about the media who for many years had dutifully served as Joe Biden’s reputational bodyguard.
I can already anticipate a liberal reading this will come up with his or her own list of Donald Trump’s lies. The question to ask that liberal is why he or she accepts behavior from a Democrat that he or she does not accept from a Republican.