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Joe Biden Says His Helicopter 'Went Down' in Afghanistan - But We Looked Up What Really Happened

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On Friday, President Joe Biden decided to channel the ghost of Brian Williams’ career.

The president was in Carlsbad, California, trying to make the closing argument for the Democrats by talking up the CHIPS and Science Act. While he gave the speech at the corporate headquarters of Viasat, he regaled those in the audience — and those watching at home — with the gripping story of how he survived the time his helicopter “went down” in Afghanistan.

“A lot of you have been to Afghanistan. I’ve been to every part of it. It’s a godforsaken place. It’s a godforsaken place,” Biden said.

“When we — my helicopter went down, I was with the — the — the commander as well as a couple snipers and — and a guy named [Chuck] Hagel, who was — later became the secretary of Defense and a guy named [John] Kerry, the secretary of — of State,” he said.

“And he wanted to see — they wanted to see where bin Laden had escaped through the mountains up in the upper Kunar Valley.  So the upper Kunar Valley is nothing but rock — straight rocks. There’s no vegetation at all.  Some of you have been there,” he continued.

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“And well, our helicopter went down in a snowstorm. And we found a place to land that was an old path.  And it was lucky that we had such great pilots.”

This is all very thrilling, until you realize it’s only true on the merest of technicalities.

Do you think Biden has a tendency to exaggerate events?

Biden’s helicopter “went down” during his fact-finding trip to Afghanistan in roughly the same way that all aircraft that go up eventually come down. According to a Fox News fact-check from the first time he told this preposterous tale, back in 2015, Biden, Hagel and Kerry were on a fact-finding expedition to the country when the pilot realized the weather conditions were deteriorating and took advantage of the fact that, given helicopters can go straight up and straight down, he was better off putting the thing straight down.

“It went pretty blind, pretty fast and we were around some pretty dangerous ridges,” Kerry said. “So the pilot exercised his judgment that we were better off putting down there, and we all agreed.”

Then, after an uneventful landing, the three of them waited to return to Bagram Air Base in the snow.

“We sat up there and traded stories,” Kerry joked. “We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn’t have to do it.”

“Other than getting a little cold, it was fine.”

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If John “Reporting For Duty” Kerry can’t find a way to make the event look dramatic, it wasn’t dramatic.

Biden’s remark brings to mind several career-altering aircraft-under-fire lies.

Brian Williams, then the host of “NBC Nightly News,” lost his job in 2015 after falsely claiming a helicopter he was traveling in during his time in Iraq came under enemy fire.

And then there was Hillary Clinton, who claimed during the 2008 campaign that she’d come under sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia.

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base,” she said.

The Washington Post’s fact-checker found this supremely dubious: “Had Hillary Clinton’s plane come ‘under sniper fire”’in March 1996, we would certainly have heard about it long before now. Numerous reporters, including The Washington Post’s John Pomfret, covered her trip. A review of nearly 100 news accounts of her visit shows that not a single newspaper or television station reported any security threat to the first lady. ‘As a former AP wire service hack, I can safely say that it would have been in my lead had anything like that happened,’ said Pomfret.”

Clinton lost the 2008 presidential race, although she’d be appointed secretary of state. The incident didn’t hurt her during the 2016 race and she didn’t lose the only real job she’s had since leaving the White House with Bill in 2001: a long, unsuccessful climb back to the White House, this time with her officially in control.

However, Biden’s claim on Friday resembled nothing quite so much as … Joe Biden.

After all, this is a guy who’s falsely claimed to have been involved with the Civil Rights movement. He’s lied about being arrested while attempting to visit Nelson Mandela in prison in apartheid-era South Africa. He’s lied about having been a truck driver.

At least Brian Williams and Hillary Clinton faced some repercussions for their lies. Joe Biden keeps on fibbing and no one wants to hold him accountable. As Tuesday’s election results continue to roll in, let’s hope voters did what the media wouldn’t.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture