Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed to have committed his whole life to civil rights on Sunday during a speech at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Biden, who has repeatedly exaggerated his involvement in the civil rights movement, made the comments while addressing the church’s congregation on the 56th anniversary of the bombing, perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan, that killed four African American children.
“In my life, when Dr. King was assassinated and my city of Wilmington, Delaware was occupied by the national guard after the burning,” Biden said, invoking the riots that overwhelmed Wilmington and other major cities across the U.S. upon news of King’s death. “I faced, and many in my neighborhood, faced a defining moment.”
The former vice president claimed it was then that he chose to jettison a lucrative private law career to serve as a public defender — the first of many positions in government over his more than 40-year political career.
“I left and took the first steps in a life, unfulfilled, but committed to civil rights,” Biden said.
The statement comes as the former vice president is under scrutiny for claiming a large role in the civil rights movement, despite little evidence to back up such assertions.
“I never thought coming out of the civil rights movement, that I’d see people walking out in fields, carrying torches,” Biden said in August, when accusing the Trump administration of emboldening racists during an speech at Limestone College in South Carolina.
Even though Biden took part in a few desegregation protests as a teenager in Delaware, no record exists he was part of the central episodes of the civil rights movement throughout the 1960s. In fact, after graduating law school in 1968 there is no mention of Biden being active in the civil rights movement, let alone serving as one of its leaders. Although evidence is scant, Biden has still cited his work in the movement as a defining point of his early adulthood.
“A lot of folks like me come out of the civil rights movement,” the former vice president told voters when contrasting his views to those of President Donald Trump last month.
As Breitbart News reported in June, Biden has a long history of inflating his civil rights activism. During his aborted run for the 1988 Democrat nomination, he falsely claimed to have “marched” in the civil rights movement when presenting himself as candidate of generational change.
“When I marched in the Civil Rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Biden told a group of New Hampshire school children in 1987. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes, and we changed attitudes.”
As Matt Flegenheimer of the the New York Times pointed out, however, the candidate had in face never marched.
“More than once, advisers had gently reminded Mr. Biden of the problem with this formulation: He had not actually marched during the civil rights movement,” wrote Flegenheimer. “And more than once, Mr. Biden assured them he understood — and kept telling the story anyway.”
The exaggeration, along with Biden’s propensity for plagiarism, would eventually force him to abandon his presidential bid before a single vote was cast. Even prior to dropping out of that race, many had noted that for someone who claimed to be a champion of civil rights, Biden had worked with segregationists to oppose school busing.
Biden’s stance on busing has been denounced widely by civil rights over the years, most recently in June by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who stated the former vice president was on the “wrong side of history.”