CNN: Biden should probably stop telling this story about Amtrak that can't possibly be true

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

President Biden gave a speech in Philadelphia at the end of April as part of a celebration of Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. During the speech he told a particular story about something that had happened to him during his years as vice president. The story involved an Amtrak conductor named Angelo Negri who had become Biden’s friend over the years. Negri allegedly came up to Biden one day as he was getting on the train to tell him that he had done the math and concluded Biden had traveled 1.5 million miles on Amtrak over the years, even more miles than he’d traveled by air.

But when a few news outlets including Fox News and the Daily Mail looked into it, there were significant problems with the story. The most glaring was that the conductor who had supposedly grabbed Biden’s arm to tell him about the milestone had retired decades earlier. In fact, that particular conductor died a full year before Biden hit the milestone mentioned in the story.

Jump forward to this week and Biden told the same story with the same details.

After pronouncing himself “Mr. Amtrak,” Biden said that “toward the end of my term” as vice president, “a headline came out in all of the papers” about how many miles he had flown on Air Force planes — 1.3 million miles or 1.7 million miles, he said.

As he was getting on an Amtrak train that Friday, Biden continued, Negri grabbed him affectionately by the cheek and said, “Joey, baby!”

Biden said he had been concerned Negri would be shot by the Secret Service, so he had assured agents that Negri was a friend. Then, he said, Negri scoffed that Biden’s number of miles traveled on Air Force planes was no “big deal” — because Negri and others had figured out that Biden had traveled a greater number of miles on Amtrak trains over his career in Washington.

Biden quoted Negri as saying: “At that retirement dinner, we calculated it.” He said Negri had explained the math, then concluded, “Joey, you traveled more on Amtrak.”

Again, the point of the story is pretty clear. It’s that even though he was flying around the world as a Senator and then Vice President, Biden had still traveled more miles on the train to and from home. But as CNN points out in detail, the story can’t possibly be true, so maybe Biden should stop telling it:

In the April version, Biden claimed that the exchange with Negri had occurred during the “fourth or fifth year” of his vice presidency, which ran from early 2009 to early 2017. Again, Biden did not hit the million-miles-flown mark as vice president until he had been in the office for more than six-and-a-half years, at which point Negri was deceased.

There is yet another issue with the story. In both the April version and an October 2020 version — and less directly in the Tuesday version — Biden at least hinted that the encounter with Negri occurred when he was commuting to Delaware because his mother was dying. But Biden’s mother, Catherine Eugenia “Jean” Finnegan Biden, died in early 2010, more than five years before her son hit the million-miles-flown mark.

The real kicker comes in the last paragraph: “The White House declined to comment for this article.” The last time the White House was asked about this, when Biden told the same story in April, the deputy press secretary shrugged it off and claimed not to have seen the stories pointing out it wasn’t true. I’m guessing the White House will notice now that CNN has finally reported on it and we won’t hear this story again. If we really had the kind of aggressive media we had during the Trump years, someone would ask why Biden keeps getting this wrong and how much of the story is even true. But the media has no interest in digging into anything which might suggest Biden’s memory isn’t what it used to be.