The presidential campaign for Joseph R. Biden admitted Tuesday that the former vice president was never arrested while trying to see Nelson Mandela during the South African apartheid despite him claiming he was arrested at least three times this month.
According to The New York Times, Mr. Biden used the word “arrested” at least three times during campaign stops in Nevada and South Carolina to describe what he experienced 30 years ago when he traveled to South Africa with a congressional delegation while he was still a senator.
“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Mr. Biden told a crowd in Columbia 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 Robbens Island.”
On Feb. 16, speaking to a Las Vegas crowd, Mr. Biden said, “After he [Mandela] got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office. 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.’”
On Tuesday, during another Las Vegas event, he said he and his wife Jill Biden got engaged shortly after he “came back from South Africa, trying to see Nelson Mandela and getting arrested for trying to see him.”
The Biden campaign now says he wasn’t arrested at all, but rather “separated” from his delegation for a short period at a South African airport.
“It was a separation,” Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Biden’s communications director, told reporters Wednesday, The New York Times reported. “They, he was not allowed to go through the same door that the — the rest of the party he was with. 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.”
Ms. Bedingfield also said Mandela later thanked Mr. Biden in D.C. for his “anti-apartheid work,” contradicting the former vice president’s claim that Mandela also used the word “arrested.”
“Those are the facts. That’s what I know about it,” she said, The Independent reported. “I’ve now told you everything I know about that trip, which happened in the mid-‘70s.”
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