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Friday, December 2, 2022

The Chief Storyteller, Joe Biden, Spinning Yarns That Frequently Come Undone

On Wednesday, as President Biden was standing in front of Floridians who had lost everything as a result of Hurricane Ian, he reflected on the time 15 years earlier when his own home was almost destroyed and stated, “We didn’t lose our entire home, but lightning hit and we lost an awful lot of stuff.”

Mr. Biden has made previous references to the event, including one time when he said that he understands what it’s like to “have had a home burn down with my wife in it.”

In point of fact, the news reports that were published at the time referred to it as “a tiny fire that was restricted to the kitchen,” and they cited the local fire chief in Delaware as claiming that “the fire was under control in 20 minutes.”

This is not an isolated instance of embellishment; other examples include:

The embellished version of his life story that Mr. Biden recounts involves his having been a ferocious civil rights warrior who was jailed on many occasions. He has made the claim that he was an exceptional student who achieved three degrees and received several awards. In addition, he declared the previous week when speaking on the island of Puerto Rico that he had been “raised in the Puerto Rican community at home, politically.” The island was ravaged by hurricanes.

Mr. Biden has used storytelling as a means of engaging with his audience for more than four decades. He often emphasises the veracity of his tale by exclaiming, “Not a joke!” in the midst of a story. However, Mr. Biden’s folksiness has a tendency to stray into folklore, with dates that don’t quite line up and details that are either overstated or inaccurate. The factual edges are shaved off in order to make things more potent for audiences.

Mr. Biden’s instances of exaggeration and falsehood fall far well short of those of his predecessor, who during his four years in office delivered what the Washington Post fact checker described as a “tsunami of untruths” and what CNN described as a “staggering avalanche of daily wrongness.” Mr. Biden’s instances of exaggeration and falsehood fall far well short of those of his predecessor.

Former President Donald J. Trump was a chronic liar. He lied not only about inconsequential matters (such as denying that it rained during his inauguration, despite the fact that it was abundantly clear that it did), but also about significant events. For example, he misled the public about the pandemic, spread the “big lie” that former President Joe Biden stole the 2020 election, and made the false assertion that his supporters did not storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The exaggerations made by Mr. Biden do not even come close to reaching that level. However, they are emblematic of the president’s inability to break himself of the habit of weaving together his political identity using embellished narratives that are sometimes only loosely based on the facts. The president has been in public life for nearly half a century, but he has been unable to break this habit. In addition, they provide Republicans the political ammo they need to continue their campaign to portray him as too weak to fight for reelection in the next two years.

Since he ran for president in 1987, when he tried to pass off another person’s life story as his own and made false claims about his academic record, his tales have been repeatedly and publicly called into question. This began with his failed bid for the presidency in 1987, when he was forced to withdraw.

There is no record that he was ever detained for any reason during a demonstration for civil rights.

During the campaign for the year 2020, he claimed that he had been imprisoned when he was in South Africa visiting Nelson Mandela. Later, he confirmed that the police had prevented him from moving, but that he had not been detained. In 2008, he claimed that when he was a college student, he had been jailed for following a group of ladies into a dorm that was reserved only for women. He admitted many years afterwards that he had been wrong. In 2007, he related the story of how a Capitol Police officer had detained him in 1963 when he was only 21 years old and a student. However, he claims that the police “didn’t arrest me or anything” in the book that he wrote about his life.

According to the White House, President Biden made a reference in his address on voting rights to a tale that his mother had told him about an incident that occurred when he was a teenager and the police took him home after he stood with a black couple during a desegregation dispute.

Officials from the administration brought up previous interviews in which he said, “I wasn’t John Lewis. I don’t want to give the wrong impression.”

However, Mr. Blake said that even if Mr. Biden had justifications and explanations for each instances of inaccuracy, there may still be a cumulative impact.

Mr. Blake said that this was an effort to “build a kind of image of who he is as someone who has empathy, understanding, and connection with others who are unlike him.”

However, he said, “the issue is that when it is verifiably a false tale, at that point faith in that story evaporates, and that is the difficulty.”

Chris Matthews
I am a Political News Journalist of The National Era
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