Former UN ambassador calls into question Joe Biden’s claim he was arrested in South Africa

It seems that former Vice President Joe Biden is implementing a new campaign strategy in an effort to save his failing 2020 presidential bid: making up stories.

Out of nowhere, Biden is telling voters on the campaign trail that he was arrested three decades ago in South Africa while trying to visit Nelson Mandela. But according to a new report from The New York Times, Biden has never told this story before — and now, one former U.N. ambassador says he doesn’t think the former VP is telling the truth.

“The great honor of being arrested”

Biden has peddled this story at no less than three campaign appearances in the last two weeks, according to the Times, apparently because he’s celebrating an anniversary.

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden told a crowd in South Carolina last week, according to the Times. “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.”

Believe it or not, the story gets even more fantastical from there.

“After he [Mandela] got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden claimed at a subsequent event in Nevada. “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.’”

Time for a fact-check

According to the Daily Wire: “Biden mentioned the arrest twice more in the next week, claiming he was arrested in between attempts to get his wife, Jill, to agree to marry him. That meant the arrest would have occurred in 1977.”

But The New York Times said it “could not account for all of the details of Mr. Biden’s overseas travel during the period that included the South Africa trip.”

The Timesreport explained further:

[I]f Mr. Biden, then a United States senator from Delaware, was in fact arrested while trying to visit Mr. Mandela, he did not mention it in his 2007 memoir when writing about a 1970s trip to South Africa, and he has not spoken of it prominently on the 2020 campaign trail. A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest. South African arrest records are not readily available in the United States.

The Times also reached out to Andrew Young, who served as “U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979.”

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

Sneaky Joe

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Biden has been caught in a lie, and it’s clear why he does it: he thinks his stories will resonate with potential voters. In this case, the Times suggested Biden was targeting African American voters, particularly as he looks to the upcoming South Carolina primary.

Whether Biden’s gamble works or only serves to further damage his already crumbling presidential campaign remains to be seen.

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