While it’s impossible to measure the grief of a man who loses his young wife and infant daughter in a car collision, it’s both possible and necessary to take the measure of a man who spent years falsely claiming the other driver may have been drunk.
During Joe Biden’s 2008 run as Barack Obama’s running mate, Pamela Hamill — the daughter of that other driver — asked that the then-senator make a public apology for the years he’d spent impugning her father.
Curtis Dunn was driving the tractor-trailer that collided with the car driven by Biden’s first wife, Neilia. Neilia was carrying their 13-month-old infant daughter with her, and young sons Beau and Hunter were in the car, too. They were on their way to buy a Christmas tree when the accident occurred. Police at the time made the determination that Mrs. Biden drove into the path of the oncoming truck, possibly because she was looking the wrong way at a stop sign. Neilia and the girl died of their injuries, despite Dunn’s attempts to provide first aid, and the Bidens’ sons were also hurt very badly. POLITICO wrote in January of this year that a friend of Biden’s looked into the accident at the time and concluded, “She had a stop sign. The truck driver did not.”
When Hamill made her apology request, the Newark Post reported that the chief prosecutor at the time, Jerome O. Herlihy, said that “there is no evidence” supporting Biden’s longstanding assertion that Dunn might have, in Biden’s words, “drank his lunch” that terrible day. And yet, as Post reporter Carl Hamilton noted:
Biden has been alluding to alcohol being involved in the crash for nearly a decade. During a speech in 2001, Biden told an audience at University of Delaware that a drunken driver crashed into his family.
He told a similar story during a public appearance in 2007.
More recently, the vice presidential candidate’s misrepresentation of Dunn has found its way into major newspapers, including the New York Times.
It also has been repeated on radio and on television by major news journalists, including CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric.
Yet Hamill said she had no idea Biden had been misrepresenting Dunn until late August.
Although Dunn was not at fault and was quick to render assistance, he was haunted by the accident for the rest of his life. Dunn passed away in 1999, 27 years later, but as his daughter told the Post, “He always got very solemn around Christmastime because the anniversary was Dec. 18, and he never wanted to celebrate the holidays.”
After an exhaustive online search, I can find no mention of Biden ever apologizing to Hamill or to her family. And that POLITICO piece by Michael Kruse I quoted above? It was headlined, “How Grief Became Joe Biden’s Superpower,” which is enough to make you sick after learning how Biden twisted the facts — and his own grief — for, what, a slicker stump speech?
Or as Jack Fowler asked back in April of this year, “It was a heartbreaking story all around, and with officials leaving no doubt of the truck driver’s complete innocence, what was the point of doing or saying anything more than letting Neilia and Naomi Biden rest in peace?” The answer to Fowler’s question would seem to be revealed by that POLITICO profile: Biden chose to weaponize his grief, and any collateral damage be damned.
As a husband and as the father of two young boys, ages 9 and 13, I can all-too-well imagine the horror of receiving of phone call like the one Biden received on December 18, 1972. But to then spend years impugning the innocent driver who tried to save my own loved ones, despite just have been nearly killed himself? That I can’t imagine, and suspect you couldn’t, either. We can, however, safely assess the character of the man who would do such a thing — and then neglect to apologize when called on it — as thoughtless, cruel, and very, very small.
I admit to some personal bias here. From the first time I became aware of Biden, during the 1988 presidential primaries, I found his demeanor annoyingly fake and cloyingly off-putting. My 19-year-old self had no way to know just how correct that assessment was.