Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might have elicited groans from one audience when he recently repeated his often cited line that he marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But at least he was telling the truth.
A new report claims that former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been holding a big lead atop the Democratic presidential polls since he announced his candidacy in April, has repeatedly and knowingly lied about his involvement in the civil rights movement. Despite advisers reminding him of the truth, Biden has “kept telling the story anyway,” according to a damning report from the New York Times’ Matt Flegenheimer.
The Times reported that Biden first made the claim back in 1987.
“When I marched in the civil rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Biden thundered said in New Hampshire. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes. And we changed attitudes.”
One problem, though, according to Flegenheimer: Biden “had not actually marched during the civil rights movement.”
The revelation could prove to be a setback with the coveted Black vote that he and every other presidential candidate have been working to secure. Biden has had a few recent stumbles while courting the Black vote, including but definitely not limited to his recent refusal to formally apologize to Anita Hill for his treatment toward her when he was the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman presiding over Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearing, which took place just a few years after Biden’s first reported lie about his involvement in the civil rights movement.
The new report came as Biden was also coming under fire for his role in the same 1994 crime bill that Hillary Clinton’s opponents called her out for referencing “super predators” in what many people have said was a nod to the Black people who were disproportionately affected by the law.
“Folks, let’s get something straight,” Biden, also in New Hampshire, said last month. “This idea that the crime bill generated mass incarceration, it did not generate mass incarceration.”
Rival Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a former federal attorney with a checkered prosecutorial past, poked a few holes in Biden’s assertion.
“That 1994 crime bill, it did contribute to mass incarceration in our country,” the California senator said the very next day in reference to Biden’s comments. “It encouraged and was the first time that we had a federal three strikes law. It funded the building of more prisons in the states. So, I disagree, sadly.”
Still, political pundits have been gravitating toward the notion that Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee in the 2020 election. But that presumption also disregards the fact that there are a record number of women running for president. A common refrain heard among progressive voices is that the Democratic ticket must have some semblance of diversity. But there have also been questions about how effective Capitol Hill lifers (read: old white men in Washington) can be as the country inches closer to white people becoming a minority.
If recent history was any indication, it was doubtful that the Times’ report would hurt Biden’s campaign, which has thrived despite a few similar stumbles that include his oft-criticized touchy-feely, hands-on moments with women and girls alike. However, it could also serve as further evidence that Biden, who would turn 77 shortly after becoming president if he is elected, may not be the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, the only objective of the Democrats.