The US president still insists he was ‘stopped’ while trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison
US President Joe Biden has acknowledged that he “wasn’t arrested” while trying to visit imprisoned South African anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela in prison. He made the confession during a visit with the country’s current leader at the White House on Friday. However, Biden continued to insist he was “stopped” while trying to visit Mandela.
Describing “one of the great moments of [his] career” to visiting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the president explained that “the first time Nelson Mandela came to the United States,” when Biden was still a senator in 1990, “he asked if he could come by my office and he came by to say thank you because he heard I had been stopped trying to get to visit him, to see him in prison.”
“And I said once – I said I got arrested. I wasn’t arrested, I got stopped, prevented from moving,” Biden clarified.
The president’s insistence during the 2020 election that he had been arrested trying to visit Mandela – despite 760 miles lying between the supposed point of arrest in Johannesburg and Mandela’s cell on Robben Island – led to even the sympathetic Washington Post fact-checking his story as “ridiculous.”
While his campaign later backtracked to claim he was merely “separated” from other congressmen at an airport in 1976 because he refused to submit to the rules of apartheid and use a separate door from the Congressional Black Caucus members he was traveling with, another congressman on the trip debunked that version as well, countering that there were “no problem[s] with airports at any of the countries we visited,” and that Biden “wasn’t the only white guy on the trip.”
Biden has also repeatedly and falsely claimed that he was arrested protesting for civil rights during the 1960s, even as political opponents have pointed to his 1994 crime bill and support for mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws as evidence of decidedly less progressive views on race. His defenders cite his advanced age – at 79, he is the US’ oldest-ever president – to excuse his sometimes fuzzy relationship with the truth, though a plagiarized speech and falsified credentials nearly ended his political career as a much younger man.