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Liar in Chief: A Brief History of Joe Biden Lying About His Life Experiences

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Straight after a series of lies about Afghanistan, Joe Biden didn’t miss a beat when he claimed during a virtual address to Jewish leaders that he had visited the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 congregants were murdered in a mass shooting.

“I remember spending time at the… you know, going to the… you know, the Tree of Life synagogue, speaking with them,” Biden said.

But, Barb Feige, executive director of the Tree of Life, told the New York Post that in the three years since the attack, Biden never visited the synagogue as he claimed.

On Friday, the White House embarrassingly had to admit that Joe Biden lied… although they didn’t use those words. In a statement, a White House official explained that Biden “was referring to a call he had with the Tree of Life rabbi in 2019.”

This was hardly the first time Joe Biden has “embellished” his life story in recent years. Last year, while campaigning in South Carolina, Biden infamously claimed that he “had the great honor of being arrested” in South Africa and got to see Nelson Mandela in prison.

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid. I had the great honor of meeting him,” Biden said in a campaign speech on February 11, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. “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.”

Biden rehashed this story a couple more times that week, even adding that in addition to being arrested, Mandela later thanked him for what he’d done.

“After he [Mandela] got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden said. “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.’”

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler suggested at the time that Biden’s fiction seemed to be driven by competitiveness with Berne Sanders. “The South Carolina primary, with its large percentage of African American voters, is critical for Biden’s hopes to emerge as the top challenger to the current front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders participated in the civil rights movement, unlike Biden, and photos have emerged of Sanders being arrested during a civil rights protest at the University of Chicago.”

The story seemed to have been entirely contrived for the campaign, as no mention of the incident was made in his memoir or past public statements. Biden was later forced to admit that he wasn’t arrested at all. “I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”

During his presidential campaign, he also fabricated a story about a four-star general who asked him while he was vice president to travel to Konar province in Afghanistan, to recognize the heroism of a Navy captain who ultimately didn’t want any recognition. The Navy captain, Biden claimed, had rappelled down a 60-foot ravine while being shot at to retrieve the body of a fellow soldier, whom he carried on his back. According to Biden’s story, the Navy captain didn’t want a Silver Star for his actions.

“He said, ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing!’ ” Biden said. “ ‘Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’ ”

“This is the God’s truth,” Biden added. “My word as a Biden.”

But his word was clearly meaningless because the story wasn’t even true. “In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony,” the Washington Post explained. Biden refused to admit he’d done anything wrong by telling the fictionalized story.

“I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we’ve lost,” Biden argued. “I don’t know what the problem is. What is it that I said wrong?”

When it comes to his life story, no lie is too low. Not even the car accident that claimed the lives of his wife and infant daughter was immune to Biden’s fictionalizations. For years, Biden has claimed that the accident was caused by a drunk driver. In actuality, police had determined at the time that Biden’s first wife Neilia had driven into the path of the oncoming truck, probably because she’d been looking the wrong way at a stop sign. Pamela Hamill, the daughter of the other driver in the accident, has asked Biden to publicly apologize for lying about her father.

Joe Biden has also lied about his academic credentials—having claimed in 1987 to have graduated in the top half of his class in law school, despite being 76th in a class of 85. “I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inaccurate,” Biden admitted after being caught in that lie.

Politicians lie. No one pretends otherwise. But Biden’s repeated attempts over the years to embellish his life story into a more politically convenient fictionalization defy common decency.