“We’ve learned over the years,” Glenn Kessler drily writes about Joe Biden, “that he is not always a reliable source.” The Washington Post fact-checker comes out of the gate first in tackling this claim from Biden in his demagogic speech on Tuesday. Biden suggested that he’d been arrested more than once while taking part in some sort of domestic civil-rights actions.
True? About as true as you’d expect of a claim from Biden:
Kessler delves into Biden’s rhetorical history to figure out what the heck Biden’s talking about here. He comes up with five different versions from Biden of the same anecdote about his mother retelling a story of his arrest at a protest over a black couple moving into his neighborhood. His mother reminds Biden of this arrest as part of her attempt to convince him to accept Barack Obama’s invitation to join the 2008 ticket. In three of the versions, Biden gets arrested while standing with the black couple on their porch, although his age and the neighborhood keeps changing.
Kessler’s a bit nonplussed at that claim:
In three cases, Biden asserts he was arrested for standing on the porch with the Black couple who were subject to demonstrations. On the face of it, that doesn’t make much sense. After all, what would be the charge?
In two versions, Biden says the police merely brought him back home from the protest after he stood on the porch. That makes a little more sense, though it’s unclear why police would take the time if they had their hands full with a protest. In any case, this means there would be no arrest record.
In his conclusion, Kessler notes that this anecdote made it into Biden’s memoirs, which Biden published in 2017 — but without any mention of an arrest. Nor does the historical record of protests in the Wilmington area match up very well with these claims. As a result, Kessler provides Biden with a full complement of Pinocchios for this whopper:
There was a protest against a Black couple who had purchased a house in an all-White area, but it was a neighborhood many miles away from the Biden home. Biden instead appears to referring to a protest that took place outside the home of the real estate agent who was involved in the sale.
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. 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.
Here’s what happened, in all likelihood: Biden recalls certain historical events and wishcasts himself into them. It’s been more than sixty years, so this is a relatively safe practice, as his presence can’t be explicitly disproven … until he mentions “arrests.” It’s at that point when Biden’s Forrest Gump fabulism meets Pinocchio. It’s happened often enough to just assume that Biden’s indulging in fabulism whenever these weird claims emerge out of nowhere, but Kessler deserves credit for doing the research and forcing the point. Where are PolitiFact, FactCheck, Snopes, and other media fact-checkers?
Final question: what was the White House explanation for “the first time, anyway”?