Ignorant Facts: Joe Biden

  • He spent his childhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where his father struggled to find a steady job after a series of business setbacks.
  • When “Joey” was 10, the Biden family moved to Wilmington, Delaware, after his father got a job selling cars. The family lived in a 3-bed, 1½-half-bath tract house. The three Biden boys shared one bedroom with their uncle, Edward Blewitt Finnegan, whom they affectionately called “Boo-Boo,” so nicknamed because he stuttered; the four of them piled into two sets of bunk beds.
  • As a child, Biden had a debilitating stutter. Classmates mockingly called him “Dash” likening his staccato to Morse code, and “Bye-Bye,” on account of his attempt to say his last name. He tried to avoid stuttering by playing out conversations in advance in his head, practicing speaking while holding pebbles in his mouth, and memorizing paragraphs instead of reading them aloud from textbooks in class.
  • During his junior and senior years at Archmere Academy, a Catholic prep school, he was elected class president but was crestfallen when school administrators blocked him from running for student body president because he had received too many demerits.
  • He played wide receiver and halfback on Archmere’s undefeated 1960 football team, catching 19 touchdown passes
  • While a student at the University of Delaware, he got probation for a prank in which he sprayed the dorm director with a fire extinguisher.
  • On the couple’s second date, Joe didn’t have enough money to pay the bill at the restaurant. Neilia slipped him a $20 under the table
  • When he first met Neilia’s mother, she asked what he wanted to do for a living. Biden informed her he intended to become president of the United States.
  • He and Neilia married in 1966. Their son Beau was born in 1969, followed by Hunter one year and one day later. “I’m not a ‘keep ‘em barefoot and pregnant’ man,” Biden said in a 1970 interview. “But I am all for keeping them pregnant until I have a little girl. The only good thing in the world is kids.” Their daughter, Naomi, was born the following year.
  • In 1967, while he was a law school student at Syracuse University, he bought a puppy for Neilia and named it “Senator.”
  • He met his future wife, Neilia Hunter, on spring break in the Bahamas during his junior year of college.
  • He was drafted after finishing law school but failed the physical because he had asthma. “I’m not big on flak jackets and tie-dye shirts,” Biden said when asked later why he didn’t join in anti-Vietnam War protests. “Other people marched. I ran for office, got elected to the United States Senate at 29, and came down here and was one of those votes that helped stop the war.”
  • As a public defender in Delaware, he defended a 25-year-old fisherman who prize-winning Holstein cow.
  • He claimed that he received racist phone calls over his support for public housing during his 1970 campaign for New Castle County Council. “The first time the phone rang and someone said, ‘You n—– lover, you want them living next to you?’ I was shocked. I said, ‘If you’re the alternative, I guess the answer is yes.’”
  • In 1972, at 29, he defeated incumbent Republican Senator Cale Boggs, becoming the fifth-youngest person ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
  • If elected in November, Biden, now 77, would be the oldest president ever inaugurated.
  • In 1974, he told a reporter that “when it comes to issues like abortion … I’m about as liberal as your grandmother. I don’t like the [Roe v. Wade] decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” In 1981, he voted for constitutional amendment that would let states overturn Roe v. Wade. He has since reversed his position.
  • In the 1970s, Biden opposed court ordered busing as a method of desegregating public schools. He has said that he favored other methods of desegregation, such as in housing, and that he supported voluntary busing.
  • Biden remarried in 1977, to Jill Tracy Jacobs, an English teacher who met Biden on a blind date arranged by his brother.
  • He is a self-described “gaffe machine” who has falsely said he was shot at in Iraq (he later clarified he “was near where it landed” that he met survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, school shooting while he was vice president (the shooting happened after he left office) and that he was arrested while trying to visit Nelson Mandela in apartheid-era South Africa (he later said he was just detained).
  • In speeches throughout the 1980s, he repeatedly claimed to have “marched in the civil rights movement,” and cited “Bull Connor and his dogs” as what “galvanized” his political awakening. There is no evidence of Biden joining civil rights marches during this era, though he did take part in a picket outside downtown Wilmington’s segregated Rialto movie theater in the 1960s.
  • In 1987, he ran for president for the first time. He quit the race after it was revealed he incorporated into a speech of his parts of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock—falsely referring to ancestors of his who worked in the coal mines
  • In February 1988, after complaining about headaches for several weeks, Biden underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm. Three months later, he had surgery for a second brain aneurysm
  • While on a tour of the Balkans in 1993, Biden met with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Biden says he called Milosevic a “damned war criminal” to his face, though others present at the meeting recall it was phrased more diplomatically.
  • He wrote the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which hardened federal prison sentences and has been criticized by lawmakers today for disproportionately incarcerating black and brown Americans
  • He was known on Capitol Hill for his long-winded, rambling speeches and off-the-cuff remarks. While listening to one of his lengthy Senate speeches, then-Senator Barack Obama wrote in a note to an aide: “Shoot. Me. Now.”
  • He infuriated then-President Obama by publicly declaring his support for gay marriage as Obama’s reelection campaign was ramping up in 2012.
Joe Biden wrestling a reporter
He once challenged a reporter to a wrestling match.