Though he reportedly spent weeks rehearsing, President Joe Biden made a number of clumsy, strange, or outright ridiculous claims during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. Here are the top nine:
1. Cashiers at Burger Joints Need To Sign Non-Competes
Biden took credit for banning burger joints like McDonald’s from forcing employees to sign non-compete agreements. "So a cashier at a burger place can’t cross the street to take the same job at another burger place to make a couple bucks more," he said. Republicans balked.
"They just changed it because we exposed it," Biden retorted. "That was part of the deal guys, look it up."
The president is apparently referring to his July 2021 Executive Order, which encouraged the Federal Trade Commission "to ban or limit non-compete agreements."
Most fast-food chains have never made any such requirement of their workers, though some did prevent them from working at nearby franchise locations. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden made frequent use of this talking point, even earning the rebuke of left-leaning fact checkers.
2. Paul Pelosi Was Attacked Because of Election Deniers
Biden tied the brutal assault of 82-year-old Bay Area resident Paul Pelosi to the rhetoric of election deniers. "Just a few months ago, unhinged by the Big Lie, an assailant unleashed political violence in the home of the then-speaker of this House of Representatives, using the very same language that insurrectionists who stalked these halls chanted on January 6th," he said.
David DePape, a deranged 42-year-old who reportedly lived inside a school bus, attacked Pelosi with a hammer inside his San Francisco home just days before the 2022 midterms. He has presented conflicting reasons for the attack since his arrest, including government corruption and the reduction of individual liberties. While legacy media tried to paint DePape as a right-wing extremist, his son told the Daily Mail that his father was a "progressive" and "hardly a right-wing conservative."
3. COVID Shut Down Businesses and Closed Schools
Biden in his prepared remarks blamed an airborne virus for having "shut down our businesses" and "closed our schools," when referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In reality, politicians chose to initiate lockdowns and stay-at-home orders to "slow the spread" of the coronavirus beginning in March 2020. While some Republican governors like Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) reversed course within months, Democratic governors and lawmakers kept lockdown orders and mask mandates in place for years, damaging many small businesses and harming children’s educations.
Biden has still not lifted the federal emergency declaration for COVID-19, which is set to expire on May 11.
4. Republicans Want To Get Rid of Social Security
"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share," Biden said, "some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset."
The president was referring to an ongoing debt ceiling fight with Republican lawmakers, in which the Republican Party has floated various spending cuts to avoid a default. But House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) has said that cuts to both Medicare and Social Security are "off the table." Many Republicans also stood and applauded when Biden pledged to not cut either program.
5. Jill Biden, Ed.D., Came Up With an Obama-Era Education Slogan
Biden credited his wife, "Dr." Jill Biden, with having coined the expression: "Any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us."
She did not come up with it. The expression has been used before by Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama. During his first year in office, the former president remarked, "In a world where countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, the future belongs to the nation that best educates its people."
Cameras caught Biden’s wife cheating with more than her words at the beginning of the speech last night, when the first lady stole a kiss from second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
6. Biden Takes Credit for Changing the Conversation on China
"Before I came to office," Biden noted in his address, "the story was about how the People’s Republic of China was increasing its power and America was failing in the world. Not anymore."
Former president Donald Trump has often been credited with changing U.S. policy toward China. Under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his administration cracked down on Chinese espionage campaigns and moved to ban TikTok.
Biden made no mention that a Chinese spy balloon traversed the United States just days before his State of the Union.
7. Biden Talks Up Smoking Trees
In apparently off-the-cuff remarks about climate change, Biden said that "more timber has been burned [due to wildfires] that I have observed from helicopters than in the entire state of Missouri." He also blamed global warming for "floods and droughts."
Biden: "More timber has been burned that I have observed from helicopters and the entire state of Missouroh." pic.twitter.com/rtrmUEKIvE
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) February 8, 2023
Leaving aside for the moment whether the president has indeed observed wildfires from a helicopter, Biden may just have been mixing up his words, as he’s been prone to do. His administration last July greenlit more than 200 helicopters to respond to wildfire incidents, according to the White House.
The claims follow a long tradition of liberals using debatable scientific results to push their agenda. Biden’s prepared remarks, for instance, touted his administration’s green energy initiatives as a response to the wildfires.
"We’re building 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations installed across the country," he said. "And helping families save more than $1,000 a year with tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and energy-efficient appliances."
8. America Needs Oil for ‘At Least Another Decade’
As part of a reelection campaign preview, Biden floated the idea that America might "need oil for at least another decade."
Biden: "When I talked to a couple of [oil companies], they say, 'we are afraid you are going to shut down all the oil refineries anyway, so why should we invest in them?' I said, we are going to need oil for at least another decade."
All the Republicans start laughing pic.twitter.com/AYLBI5g7pw
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) February 8, 2023
The apparent olive branch to the oil and gas industry is far from reassuring, given the vast economic and social repercussions of abandoning fossil fuels in just 10 years' time. The shift would threaten jobs, food supply chains, and the entire global economy. Most progressives are pushing for the United States to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the earliest.
Early in the pandemic, lefties loved to suggest that a government-forced reduction in travel by fossil fuels could transition to a permanent change. If they stay in power, that idea could go up like a Chinese spy balloon over the continental United States.
9. Nobody Wants to Be Xi
In another unscripted remark, Biden said, "Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger. Name me a world leader who changed places with Xi Jinping. NAME ME ONE! NAME ME ONE!"
Biden: "Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger. Name me a world leader who changed places with Xi Jinping. NAME ME ONE! NAME ME ONE!" pic.twitter.com/MxYUpWGZVY
— Washington Free Beacon (@FreeBeacon) February 8, 2023
The attempt to ape his predecessor’s tough talk on malign foreign powers left more than a few pundits scratching their heads. The reference apparently reaffirmed Biden’s commitment to protecting the fate of democracy amid the rise of authoritarian powers—namely, China, which last week flew unimpeded over the nation to gather intelligence on U.S. military bases.
In fact, tyrants from Kim Jong-un to Vladimir Putin and Kamala Harris would probably kill to have Xi’s absolute power and cult of personality.
At least one person seemed to get what Biden was saying: Lincoln Project alum Tom Nichols, who said Biden’s geopolitical ad lib "was great" for "wonks" like himself.
"I guess I just got it on an intuitive level: 'Who'd want to be riding that tiger.' We spend so much time embiggening China when in fact their leaders have to sweat out every damn day and pray for enough growth to keep them in power."
Whatever that means.