Academic Appropriation? Biden Appears To Claim Attendance At A Historically Black College

A tape has surfaced of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden bizarrely claiming that he “started” at a historically black college in speaking to supporters in South Carolina during the primary. Biden has never made any mention of going to Delaware State University and it is not clear why the many reporters in attendance at the event did not ask when he attended a HBCU. Indeed, he would be the first president to claim such a distinction. He might also have been inartfully referencing his start as a politician. Alternatively, this would seem like an academic version of cultural appropriation. It would seem a valid point of clarification for the media.

This story obviously created an immediate buzz among professors who tend to track academic credentials and associations of presidents and other leaders. It would certainly be a significant story if a president attended a HBCU but I am not sure what Biden meant by his statement.

Most obvious interpretation was that Biden was claiming to have been a student at Delaware State when he spoke at October 2019 town hall event held at the historic Wilson High School in Florence. The school was founded in 1866 by the Freedmen’s Bureau for Black children.  He stated “I got started out of an HBCU, Delaware State — now, I don’t want to hear anything negative about Delaware State,” Biden told the crowd, as shown on video. “They’re my folks.”


The university has stated that he was never a student there. It said that it has only records of a couple of visits as a commencement speaker.

The statement is so weird that I have tried to find an alternative meaning.  One possibility was that he got a job teaching there. However, he never claims such a position.  I am not sure when that could have happened. He became a bar member in 1969 and was elected the very next year to the New Castle County Council in 1970. Two years later he was elected to the United States Senate.

Another possibility is that he is claiming that he started his political career at the school, but again the campaign has said nothing and his own book does not mention the connection.  Did he launch his campaign for the New Castle County Council at the university? I believe the university is about 45 minutes away in Dover from New Castle.  He might be referencing his start for the Senate.  The campaign however has gone days without explaining if there was a speech launching his campaign from the university (though that would raise some issues on the use of a state school).  Absent such an explanation, the clear impression is that he attended a HCBU as a student.

Biden has been previously criticized for false claims ranging from graduating in the top half of his class to having three degrees from college to being the first in his family to attend college to coming from a family of coal miners  to being arrested in trying to meet with Nelson Mandela.

Obviously, President Donald Trump has also been regularly and correctly flagged for false statements, including denials of his prior statements. I have joined in that criticism. Yet, that is no reason to also demand accuracy or explanations from his opponent.  If President Trump made such a statement, it would have had every network and newspaper demanding clarification or proof.

The story also magnifies the concerns over the lack of serious journalism surrounding Biden, who has been routinely given softball questions and faced little scrutiny from the press corp. Interviews with Biden have been cringeworthy as reporters from major media seem to actively assist the campaign in staging favorable pressers. I could not find any reporting of this extraordinary statement when it was made in the primary. There is still little reporting. If this video is false, it is a major story. If it is true, it is an even greater story. Yet, once again, there has been virtually no coverage of the claim. I seriously do not know what to make of the story but there seems very little interest in whether Biden is the product of a HCBU or falsely claimed such a status.  Biden can simply clarify the point. As an academic, I am honestly interested in what role a HCBU played in his career and I do not believe that this is a major scandal. Yet, if it was a reference to launching his career from the Delaware State campus, it is incredibly interesting. Indeed, with the discussion of HCBU funding throughout the campaign (including in his speech), it would seem something that the campaign would have been emphasizing.


65 thoughts on “Academic Appropriation? Biden Appears To Claim Attendance At A Historically Black College”

  1. “it is not clear why the many reporters in attendance at the event did not ask when he attended a HBCU”

    Perhaps you never noticed this pattern during the Obama years. It’s known as “kissing the ass of democrat politicians”. The basic rule is…don’t say or do anything that might make them look bad.

  2. The key part of his statement is the “they’re my folks.” A new version of Biden’s “if you’re not black” argument…

  3. What is scary is not Biden’s dementia and mental problems, but the fact that so many supposedly mentally-functioning Democrats will end up voting for him. They would never admit to being cult members of the Democratic Party, and might not even admit to being extremely partisan to the point they would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican. But that is who they are. They are not capable of living in the here and now, and Reality and Facts bounce off their heads life nerf balls off a toddler.

    It is sad to see them want a person with senile dementia in charge of the Nation’s nuclear response, not to mention the gazillion other things a President has to monitor.

    Pathetic, really. I wish they re-start their mental functioning like this woman did. I do not usually get emotional in the least, but her story really touched. She is very articulate about how she stopped being a Democrat, after being “born” into the party She explains each step along the pathway of her journey, and how in spite of all the clues along the way, she could not bring herself to become a conservative, much less a dreaded Republican. If you are a Democrat who is having doubts about your party, please watch this. It is well worth the time.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  4. Yet, if President Trump made such a statement, it would have had every network and newspaper demanding clarification or proof.

    This is more of an untruth than anything Biden has said. Turley, Trump is such the liar that even the NYTimes doesn’t bother to print most of his lies and idiocies anymore. Trump has acclimated America to the fact that he is a liar. Biden is expected to be above that. Unfortunately no politician is above that. There’s that and the fact that Turley is shilling for Trump in the most obvious and pathetic ways.

    Biden slips up about his past. Trump suggests injecting bleach. Where does Turley spend his efforts?

      1. Close enough. The blithering idiot said it should be looked into. As always, making sure he didn’t say something that stupid so definitely. It’s all part of his ‘We’ll see.’ routine. Trump revealed the inner workings of his mind regardless of what he precisely said. The inner workings of Trump’s mind is sh*t rolled in sh*t. It’s just that simple and clear. If you keep making excuses for this sorry disgrace, then step back and reflect on what that makes you.

  5. I am sure there was good intentions here. But as we have held other politicians accountable, the confused statements “200 million Americans killed by guns,” “180 years in the Senate,” etc. are more than typos or misstatements. There is a repeated pattern of confusion. This should concern bipartisan and Independent Americans. One of the challenges of modern politics is the need to constantly 24×7 make comments on issues. This is not the USA that was founded in 1776. I imagine if we had a microphone in front of any of the U.S. founding fathers or past presidents 24x7x365, we would find a lot of bizarre and troubling remarks. We fail to recognize that this age is different than the past. We need to take that into consideration for the future. It is also not clear if some of the confusion is not only by candidates, but also from some of their staff. But the level of confusion is definitely troubling.

    1. These slips or gaffs of Biden are constantly being used to represent someone who is not mentally balanced enough to be President. I have yet to read about any of these gaffs that weren’t nothing more than slips during pressured moments when Biden was going on eloquently about important issues. Yes Biden slips gaffs.

      Now, let’s take a look at Trump. Trump’s gaffs, idiocies, lies, blames etc slip out in moments of pressure but more importantly form the foundation of well constructed (as much as Trump can construct well, anything) statements. Trump calmly blathers out totally non sensical statements and then digs in his heels to defend his nonsense. Compare Biden’s gaffs with Trump’s blithering idiocy. Redeem yourself Turley.

      Turley, if you are confused, then you are a complete shill for Trump, worse than Conway, Sanders, or any of the others on their knees. Shame on you, putting yourself out their is some objectively legal disguise.

      1. Isaac, it’s not just what you see as gaffes. It’s the blank look in Biden’s eyes, the lost train of thought that occurs when under no pressure. There are other clues which are all too familiar to those of us who’ve witnessed our loves ones slip into dementia.

        1. I have lost two close relatives to dementia/Alzhiemers and I agree with DV. Internet forums and even comments on the NYT on-line stories about Biden are filled with recitations from the family and friends of dementia patients similar to DV. One comment in the NYT was from an early stage dementia patient who saw the signs of his own dementia in Biden. He begged the readers to not vote for Biden and to demand that the DNC replace him as their presidential candidate before it was too late. The media’s refusal to cover this issue goes beyond malpractice. They are gambling with the future of the country and the world by not questioning Biden, his campaign and the DNC about Biden’s deteriorating mental acuity. I sincerely hope that Biden melts down at one of the debates even though it would be personally devastating to him so as to spare the rest of us the prospect of a dementia patient as the commander in chief of the world’s most potent military.

  6. Other Biden lies. There is no other way to phrase it:
    1) Full academic scholarship for law school. The only one in his class.
    2) Graduated top of his law class.
    3) Graduated with three degrees in his undergraduate school.

  7. It should be noted that the number of blacks in the late-adolescent and young adult age brackets in Delaware who are passably prepared for study at a 4-year college is around 3.600. Not all of them will elect to attend in-state, not all will elect to attend the public institutions of the state, and not all will elect to attend a small teaching institution in lieu of the state university. If their propensity to attend an HBCU matched that for the black population nationally, about 160 black youths from Delaware would elect to attend. Per US News, Delaware State is one of the more selective and demanding HBCUs. That being the case, it’s raison d’etre is to educate the generic collegian who seeks to study in an HBCU matrix. It’s a service the State of Delaware is providing to outside parties.

    HBCUs have fixed costs. Their usual response to the imperative of meeting their fixed costs has been to admit marginal students to pump up their revenue stream. All parties other than those employed at HBCUs would benefit if their quantum of physical plant matched their capable clientele. If you retained the 40 most highly ranked and closed the rest, you’d get where you ought to be.

  8. As isolated incident, it is just another confusing statement. But the string of “Bidenisms” that go unreported are astounding. The “200 million” Americans killed by guns. Joe Biden’s “180 years” in the U.S. Senate. Too many of these, consistently, are not simply misstatements, typos, errors. There is actual confusion here. It is deeply troubling for Senator Biden.

    1. You may have a point. Then remember what Tom Perez, erstewhile Secretary of Labor and DNC chairman had to say about his educational choices: he went to law school because he was bad at math.

    2. Biden’s “180 years” in the U.S. Senate was clearly a joke, Did you bother to watch the video?

      Biden is probably less confused than Trump. If only we had better candidates in both parties.

      1. Biden’s “180 years” in the U.S. Senate was clearly a joke, Did you bother to watch the video?

        Yes, we watched the video. Unlike you, we don’t have a talent for lying or self-deception.

        Biden is probably less confused than Trump.

        Trump can speak extemporaneously and answer hostile questions for hours at a time.

  9. Begs the question: is Biden senile or a liar?

    The left will ignore that statement, once again demonstrating their moral weakness.

  10. Two explanations:

    1. It’s another bit of biographical fabulism. Having appropriated Neil Kinnock’s family history, he’s now appropriating the educational history of whichever person of consequence attended Delaware State (that list is limited to an executive at BoA, a retired member of Congress, and a scrum of pro-athletes).

    2. He’s in his own private Twilight Zone.

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