Joe Biden's Tall Tale About Being Arrested in South Africa in the 1970s Debunked

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden makes a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, hosted by ABC News, Apple News, and WMUR-TV at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

It’s a great story. Joe Biden has recently begun relating an experience he had in South Africa during the 1970s where he claims he was arrested with former UN Ambassador Andrew Young trying to see Nelson Mandela in prison.


Washington Examiner:

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden told a crowd during a campaign event in South Carolina. “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.”

What courage! What empathy!

What a load of crap.

Andrew Young, a former congressman and mayor of Atlanta who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations between 1977 and 1979 and extensively traveled with Biden, cast doubt on the story the former senator has been telling at campaign stops about the two of them being arrested on the streets of Johannesburg.

“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Young told the New York Times. “Now, people were being arrested in Washington. I don’t think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa.”

Biden, 77, did not mention the arrest in his 2007 memoir, which touched on his trips to South Africa in the ’70s, and the New York Times couldn’t find any reference to his arrest in the paper’s archives.

Desperate politicians lie desperately. In Biden’s case, his Mandela story kept growing and growing the more he told it.

Biden, who has struggled in early Democratic primary contests, added more context to the story when he shared that Mandela had visited him in Washington and thanked the Delaware Democrat for getting “arrested trying to see me.”

“After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden said of Mandela at a brunch in Las Vegas this week. “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.’”


Unfortunately, Mr. Mandela is no longer among the living to confirm — or dispute — Biden’s tall tale. Maybe that’s why Biden felt comfortable telling it?

Yes, politicians lie as a matter of course until the lies merge seamlessly with the truth and he — and we — can’t tell the difference. It’s why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are at the top of the political pyramid as president and putative Democratic Party nominee. They both lie convincingly and easily. They both have created an alternate reality full of villains and dark forces at work to rob you of what’s rightfully yours.

Joe Biden needs a breakthrough win in South Carolina and the key to that victory is the black vote. His lies about being arrested in solidarity with South African blacks make a wonderful, powerful story.

Except it didn’t happen. And that’s a problem.


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