Biden Admits He Was Never Arrested in South Africa 

February 28, 2020

Presidential candidate Joe Biden was awarded a "Four Pinocchio" rating by the Washington Post for telling voters he was arrested trying to see Nelson Mandela while Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa. After weeks of making the claim, Biden said Friday he was not arrested.  

On the campaign trail, Biden repeatedly told his audiences that he was arrested trying to see Mandela during Biden's visit to South Africa in 1977. On Friday, he admitted he was separated from his group while in the airport. He traveled with the Congressional Black Caucus and was forced to enter through a racially segregated doorway labeled "white."

"I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped," Biden told CNN. "I was not able to move where I wanted to go."

According to the Post’s report, Biden’s original claim was unlikely because there was no evidence Biden had been arrested. His claim was tied to factual events he spoke about in the past; however, the parts about being arrested appear to have been inserted recently. Biden’s account in his memoir made no mention of the arrest either.

"This day 30 years ago Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid," Biden said during a campaign event in Columbia, S.C. on Feb. 11. "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 Robben Island." 

The U.N. ambassador at the time, Andrew Young, said he was never arrested with Biden.

Biden also claimed Mandela thanked him for getting arrested trying to see him.

"After [Mandela] got free and became president [of South Africa], he came to Washington and came to my office," Biden said in Las Vegas on Feb. 16. "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 communications director Kate Bedingfield on Wednesday attempted to explain the claims by pointing to Biden's separation from the group at the airport. 

"It was a separation," Bedingfield said. "He was not allowed to go through the same door as the rest of the party he was with. Obviously, this 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 to the black door. He was separated."