After weeks of confusion, Joe Biden’s campaign have finally admitted that he was not arrested while visiting Nelson Mandela. Biden has made some false claims in the past but this was particularly bizarre. No one had any record of such a historic arrest in South Africa. While Biden did not take responsibility personally for the exaggeration, his deputy campaign manager admitted today that Biden was not arrested but merely “separated from his party at the airport.” That is a bit of a nose bleed of a step down from an arrest with Mandela to an airport separation. Hard to imagine how you confuse the two since one ordinarily involves custody, cuffs, and confinement.
The claim of the arrest was viewed as a pitch to help Biden’s campaign in South Carolina but was widely ridiculed. The problem is that Biden identified his own witness in his account by noting that “I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see [Mandela] on Robben Island.”
However, Andrew Young, who was the U.N. Ambassador at the time, stated “No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either.”
The campaign then tried to explain but only made the claim more offensive that Biden would suggest that he was arrested in South Africa during apartheid: “It was a separation. They, he was not allowed to go through the same door that the — the rest of the party he was with. Obviously, it was apartheid South Africa. There was a white door, there was a black door. He did not want to go through the white door and have the rest of the party go through the black door. He was separated. This was during a trip while they were there in Johannesburg.”
So Biden remembers separation in going through an airport door as an arrest in the cause of freeing Mandela in South Africa?
Biden has been challenged about past statements like his claiming that he Biden had traveled to Konar province in Afghanistan to give a Silver Star on a Navy captain who refused the medal, because his friend didn’t survive. The Washington Post reported that it “never happened” and said “as he campaigns for president, Joe Biden tells a moving but false war story.”
Biden was also recently challenged for saying that Biden he worked on the Paris Climate Accord with former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who died 19 years before the agreement was signed.
This story however is even more insulting to those who honor the memory of Mandela. It is akin to claiming to have marched with Dr. King because you walked through an airport with him on one occasion. There is a big difference between being separated at an airport and being arrested in South Africa in the same cause as Nelson Mandela.
Yet, it is notable that CNN spent exclusive coverage on “how important is the endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn” to Biden in South Carolina rather than this astonishing claim and belated admission about Nelson Mandela.