Joe Biden went on Fox News this weekend to talk with Chris Wallace (who he called “Chuck” at one point) to take another stab at explaining his South African “arrest” story. Yes, that would be the story that even the Washington Post awarded him Four Pinocchios for. Unfortunately for Uncle Joe, his meandering answer(s) wound up sounding even worse than his first explanation.
First, he attempted to write it off as some sort of allegory showing that he was strongly opposed to apartheid. Fair enough. Lots of people rightly opposed apartheid. But what does that have to do with claiming to be arrested? When Wallace pushed back on that issue, Joe’s next defense sounded even worse. (Free Beacon, emphasis added)
Biden retold the story about how he was separated from the Congressional Black Caucus at an airport in South Africa in 1977 and was forced to go through a racially segregated doorway labeled “white,” despite initially refusing. He then told Wallace that he should have said he was “detained,” not arrested…
Biden admitted on CNN Friday that he wasn’t actually arrested, saying, “I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.“
This issue is increasingly turning into a dangerous quagmire for Biden, or at least it would be if the press wasn’t largely ignoring it. (Wallace was the only Sunday show host to ask Joe about the story, despite appearing on multiple outlets to celebrate his South Carolina victory.) Biden was asked if he was “confused or just trying to embellish a story.”
Both of the options Wallace offered are bad news for Joe. If he goes with the “embellish” line, that means he was caught lying. If he chooses “confused” then it calls his mental faculties into question yet again.
Instead, Joe is trying to write this off as a poor choice of words to describe what happened. But if you look at the excerpt I included above, that’s a complete flop of an answer also. Being “arrested” has a very specific meaning. It involves official law enforcement records, being restrained and generally includes at least some brief period of being confined. He was obviously never arrested.
But was he even “detained” as he now claims? It’s true that you can be detained by law enforcement officials without technically being arrested. But that’s not what Joe is describing either. Being detained means that you are being held at a particular location against your will and not being offered the option of leaving. Even if we assume that every word of Joe’s current version of the story is true, he was simply denied the ability to exit the area along the path he would have preferred, instead being told to leave through the doorway labeled “white.”
That’s not being arrested or detained. That’s being part of a group of people who are redirected. He was directed to take a detour. Allow me to offer a personal example.
At CPAC this week, when both Mike Pence and President Trump were in the area, the Secret Service blocked off the normal route to the media check-in office and other facilities as part of the security perimeter they had established. We were forced to go to a different floor and use an escalator that led to the magnetometers you had to go through for secure access. Was it inconvenient? I suppose so. But at no time did I feel either arrested or detained. I was simply redirected to a different route. That’s what happened to Joe Biden, assuming anything happened at all.
As I said above, this is more than just a bad look for Biden. He told that story repeatedly during this campaign. So he’s either unable to recall the events properly or he was deliberately altering the story to make himself look better. If it’s the former, then we have one more piece of evidence to toss on the pile suggesting that Joe is losing the narrative in his later years. If the later, then… well, we have another politician pulling a Brian Williams maneuver and lying to embellish his record. I remain unsure which would be worse for him, but it’s probably the mental health storyline.