Former Vice Pres. Joe Biden had better be careful. The last time he went around telling the same boast multiple times — about pressuring the Ukrainian president to drop an investigation of his son — it ended up costing his campaign.
His latest story seems to be more of a piece with “The Legend of Corn Pop” and his claim that he “got started out” at a historically black university. Which is to say it sounds as though Joe is fibbing again.
Joe Biden has recounted a story — three times in two weeks — about being arrested on his way to see Nelson Mandela. He did not mention it in his memoir or speak prominently of it before.
In at least three campaign appearances over the past two weeks, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has told a similar story as he tries to revive his campaign in states with more diverse voters. On a trip to South Africa years ago, he has said, he was arrested as he sought to visit Nelson Mandela in prison.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Mr. Biden said at a campaign event in South Carolina last week. “I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.”
So if any of this really happened, the Times writers wonder, why isn’t the story mentioned in his 2007 memoir, which contains an account of a trip he took to South Africa in the 1970s? Or on the 2020 campaign trail before now?
The reporters took the added precaution of phoning former U.N Ambassador Andrew Young, who traveled with Biden over the years, including to South Africa. “No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Young told them. He added:
Now, people were being arrested in Washington. I don’t think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa.
Biden’s desperation, if that is what is at work here, is understandable. According to the RealClear Politics average, the only state in which he still has a lead is South Carolina. And even there, the margin is a slim 3.7 points. If he can’t win South Carolina, with its large black vote, his campaign will be toast. That is why he is also promoting the story that he was “raised in the black church.’’
Which brings us back to the Mandela story. In his South Carolina retelling, he added a coda, the Times writers note. Referring to Mandela, he said:
After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office. He threw his arms around me and said, ‘I want to say thank you.’ I said, ‘What are you thanking me for, Mr. President?’ He said, ‘You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.’
Corn Pop could not be reached for comment.