Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Friday admitted his claims of being arrested during a visit to Nelson Mandela in prison were false, saying he was only “stopped,” not arrested.
Pressed on his repeated claim that he was “arrested” in the 1970s while a senator from Delaware on a congressional delegation trip to South Africa, Biden backed away from the claim.
“When I said arrested, I meant, I was not able to move. Cops, Afrikaners would not let me go with them, 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,” the former vice president said during an interview on CNN.
“Well what I meant to say was, I got off,” Biden said, before adding, “Look, I strongly opposed Apartheid, I was one of the leaders.”
“Here’s the deal. I was with a black delegation, the CDC, the Congressional Black Caucus, they had me get off a plane, the Afrikaners got on in their short pants and their guns, led me off first and moved me in a direction totally different, I turned around and everybody, the entire black delegation was going another way,” Biden said.
“I said ‘I’m not going to go in that door that says white only, I’m going with them,’” he continued. “They said ‘You’re not, you can’t move, you can’t go with them.’ And they kept me there until finally, I decided, it was clear I wasn’t going to move. And so what they finally did, they said okay, they’re not going to make the congressional delegation go through the black door, they’re not going to make me go through the white door, they took us if memory serves me through a baggage claim area up to a restaurant, and they cleared out a restaurant.”
Biden has come under scrutiny for claiming three times in two weeks on the campaign trail this month that he was arrested with former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young “on the streets of Soweto.” Young, who was still a congressman at the time of the visit, has said he was never arrested in South Africa.
Biden’s campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield attempted to clarify the story this week, saying Biden “was separated” from the Congressional Black Caucus delegation rather than arrested.
Biden on Friday added an anecdote about the anti-apartheid leader and former president of South Africa, saying that Mandela visited Biden’s office and thanked him after being freed and coming to the U.S.
“He sat down in my office, thanked me for all the work I did on Apartheid,” Biden said.