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Fact check: Biden repeats his claim that he ‘got arrested’ defending civil rights. There’s still no evidence for it

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) — President Joe Biden went on “The Howard Stern Show” on Friday and repeated his familiar story about the time he supposedly “got arrested” trying to defend the civil rights of Black Americans.

As in the past, Biden told the story on Friday while recounting what his mother supposedly said while urging him to accept Barack Obama’s 2008 offer to be his running mate. His mom, he said, did not want him to turn down a man who was vying to become the first Black president.

Biden told Stern: “She said, ‘Joey, let me — remember’ — true story, she said — ‘Remember when they were desegregating Lynnfield, the neighborhood … suburbia — and I told you — and there was a Black family moving in and there was — people were down there protesting; I told you not to go down there and you went down, remember that? And you got arrested standing on the porch with a Black family? And they brought you back, the police?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, Mom, I remember that.’”

Facts FirstThere is no evidence Biden ever got arrested during a civil rights protest, as The Washington Post and PolitiFact found when they looked into this claim in 2022 — and Biden has at least twice told the story of his supposed presence at this particular Delaware protest without mentioning any arrest, instead claiming that the police merely took him home that day.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The Post noted that in the version of the story Biden told during a public conversation with Oprah Winfrey late in the 2020 presidential campaign, he said the police escorted him home from the protest because they thought he would get in trouble; he did not say they arrested him.

The Post reported that he told Winfrey his mother said: “And there were people protesting and I told you not to go down there and you went down and the police brought you back because you were standing on the step with the Black family.
You were standing with them. And the police brought you home because they thought you’d get in trouble.” He told Winfrey that he responded, “Yeah, Mom, I remember that.”

As the Post and PolitiFact also noted, Biden’s 2017 memoir included an abbreviated version of the story about his mother’s 2008 comments urging him to accept Obama’s running mate offer, but it made no mention of an arrest. No other Biden memoir, either, says he was arrested at such a protest.

The Post and PolitiFact did find that there were protests roughly matching Biden’s description in early 1959, when Biden was 16 years old, in communities not far from Biden’s home in Delaware. Crowds protested against a Black couple that had bought a home in a previously all-White community and against the realtor who sold it to them.

But the Wilmington News Journal reported that the four teenagers arrested at the protest at the couple’s home were arrested for possessing fireworks — and that all seven of the arrests that day were of people in the anti-integration crowd outside the home. The newspaper reported that the police on scene were defending the home and the Black couple. It also quoted one member of the couple as saying, “Nobody’s behind us.”

It’s impossible to definitively prove whether or not Biden was present at this protest or any similar protest 60-plus years ago. (Biden’s mother died in 2010.)

Previous false claims

Biden has made a series of false claims about his personal past in the last two weeks. They include the false claim that he “used to drive an 18-wheeler” and the false claim that he has never earned $400,000 in a year.

And while running for president in 2020, Biden claimed he was “arrested” as a US senator as he tried to visit South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela while Mandela was imprisoned. After media outlets found no evidence of such an arrest, Biden told CNN that he had been “stopped” in South Africa but did not mean to say arrested.

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