Joe Biden used the anniversary of 9/11 to claim that he remembered “standing there looking at the building” in New York the next day – even though he was actually in Washington DC.
Biden, 80, faced criticism for becoming the first president in the 22 years since the attacks not to spend the anniversary at one of the three sites of the Sept. 11 plane crashes.
He intensified criticism on Monday by falsely claiming he was at the Twin Towers the day after the attack – even though he writes in his own autobiography that he was in Washington DC.
Biden also embellished his memories of the day on Monday, claiming he saw a “fireball” at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 while describing it as a “brown smoke haze” in his book.
Joe Biden is seen speaking to troops in Anchorage, Alaska on Monday, the 22nd anniversary of 9/11. He is the first president not to spend the anniversary at the site of one of the three plane crashes
The picture shows planes crashing into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001
Joe Biden speaks to reporters outside Congress on September 11, 2001
Biden, seen on September 11, 2001, was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time of the attacks
When Biden spoke to troops in Anchorage, Alaska, on the way home from the G20 summit in Vietnam, he told them, with typical Biden exaggeration, of his memories of 22 years ago.
“The cloud of fire that shot into the sky at the Pentagon — I remember seeing it as I was getting off the Amtrak train on my way to work at the U.S. Senate,” he said.
But in his autobiography, he wrote that the scene was much less dramatic: “I could see a haze of brown smoke hanging in the otherwise crystal clear sky behind the Capitol dome.”
Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was photographed speaking to reporters outside the Capitol on Sept. 11.
In his 2007 book “Promises to Keep,” Biden writes that he was in Washington, D.C., the day after the attack: “The next morning I made my way back to the Capitol,” he writes.
A September 12, 2001 Gannett News Wire report cited by The New York Post, backed up the version in his bio, beginning with the words: “Delaware Senator Joe Biden spent Wednesday exactly where he wanted – in the U.S. Senate.”
On Monday, he also told a dramatically different story about the day after.
“Ground Zero in New York – I remember standing there the next day and looking at the building,” he said.
“And I felt like I was looking through the gates of hell.”
“It looked so devastating because you could stand like that and from there.”
Biden describes in his book how he spoke to students at the University of Delaware on September 19, 2001.
Biden visited Ground Zero nine days after the attacks, on September 20, 2001, and was photographed touring the site with fellow senators Ted Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski – but Biden does not mention this in his book.
Biden (center) visits Ground Zero on September 20, 2001 with fellow senators Ted Kennedy (left) and Barbara Mikulski (center, in poncho)
Biden’s 2007 book says he was in Washington DC on September 11th and 12th, 2001
However, his book mentions a visit to a mosque in Newark, New Jersey on September 21, 2001.
Biden is known for his exaggerations and twisted, misremembered stories.
The president, who joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the age of 32 and became its chairman in 2001, has frequently spoken about his “arrest” by South African police.
On February 11, 2020, Biden told an audience in South Carolina that he had been arrested in the African country.
“30 years ago today, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and began a discussion about apartheid,” he told the crowd.
“I had the great honor of meeting him. “I had the great honor of being arrested on the streets of Soweto along with our UN ambassador when I tried to meet him on Robben Island.”
Biden did not name the year, but was in South Africa in 1977.
Biden is seen visiting a memorial for Nelson Mandela in front of the South African embassy in December 2013. Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95
Mandela was held behind bars on Robben Island from 1964 to 1982 – but Robben Island is off the coast of Cape Town, while Biden said he was in Johannesburg’s Soweto district.
Later that month, Biden repeated the story of his arrest to a crowd in Nevada at a black history brunch.
‘[Mandela] “came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden said during a presidential campaign meeting in Las Vegas.
“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.’
And at a second event in Las Vegas days later, Biden repeated the arrest story a third time.
He told the crowd he “came back from South Africa, tried to see Nelson Mandela and was arrested for trying to see him.”
Mandela is seen during a joint session of the US Congress in June 1990
In June 1990, Mandela addressed the United Nations and asked the UN to maintain sanctions against South Africa until apartheid was abolished
The claim of an arrest was refuted by The New York Times in February 2020, when several officials and former colleagues in the Senate told the newspaper they had no memory of the arrest.
The newspaper even noted that Biden’s own accounts, in his autobiography and in his statements about Mandela, made no reference to an arrest.
Fact-checkers who gave Biden’s account “four Pinocchios” and declared it “Pants on Fire” noted that he had been separated from black colleagues when landing at the airport in neighboring Lesotho in December 1976.
At the time, Biden was among 13 congressmen who traveled to Lesotho.
“As I exited the plane, I was directed to one side of the tarmac while the African-American members of Congress traveling with me were directed to the other side,” he said.
“I refused to stop and the officers finally relented.”
In late February 2020, Biden told CNN that this was not the case, as he was very interested in whether he had actually been arrested.
“When I said ‘arrested,’ I meant I couldn’t move,” Biden said after recounting what happened to him.
“The police wouldn’t let me go.” I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I couldn’t move where I wanted to go.’
He did not specify whether this encounter took place in Lesotho or South Africa.
Biden has a long history of exaggerating his own biography.
In January of this year, in a conversation with students at historically black colleges in Atlanta, he claimed that he had been arrested during civil rights protests – a claim for which there is no evidence.
In September 2021, he told Jewish leaders that he remembered spending time and “visiting” the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the mass murder of eleven people in 2018. It later emerged that he had never visited her.
The White House said he was referring to a phone call and made a mistake.