Former Vice President Joe Biden admitted Friday that he was “stopped” and not allowed to “move where I wanted to go” as he tried to meet with Nelson Mandela instead of arrested as he previously claimed.
“When I said ‘arrested’ I meant I was not able to move, cops would not let me go with them and made me stay where I was. I guess I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped, I was not able to move where I wanted to go,” Biden told CNN.
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) February 28, 2020
Biden was backtracking on claims he made on the campaign trail in recent weeks that he was arrested while on a trip to South Africa to visit Mandela.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden said in South Carolina, according to The New York Times.
“I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.”
Biden also said Mandela thanked him for getting arrested during an event in Las Vegas.
“After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” he said. “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.'”
Biden would have been a Delaware senator at the time of his supposed arrested in the 1970s.
His claims were called into question when The Times pointed out that this seemingly historic event was not described in Biden’s 2007 memoir.
When The Times asked Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, about the claim, he expressed skepticism.
“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think [Biden] was, either,” Young said. “Now, people were being arrested in Washington. I don’t think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa.”
Biden’s campaign has even walked back on the claim and said that Biden was “separated from his party.”
“It was a separation. They, he was not allowed to go through the same door that the — the rest of the party he was with,” deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters, according to The Times.
“Obviously, it was apartheid South Africa. There was a white door, there was a black door. He did not want to go through the white door and have the rest of the party go through the black door. He was separated. This was during a trip while they were there in Johannesburg.”
In his interview, Biden confirmed this version of the story but added that Mandela did thank him during a trip to the United States.
“Long after this, when Nelson Mandela was freed and came to the United States, he came to my office. He was one of the most incredible men I ever met. He sat down in my office and thanked me, thanked me for all the work I did on apartheid,” he said. “So that’s the context of it.”
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