Delaware 2017: Joe Biden Recounts Nearly Wrapping a Chain Around a Gang Leader Named Corn Pop’s Head

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 03: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the 2020 Public Service Forum hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at UNLV on August 3, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nineteen of the 24 candidates …
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Joe Biden told a harrowing story during an event in 2017 about facing down a razor-wielding gang leader named Corn Pop in his youth by threatening to “wrap” a chain around the man’s head. The incident came back into the spotlight over the weekend when footage of Biden’s remarks began circulating social media.

The former vice president, who has come under scrutiny in recent weeks for embellishing portions of his personal and political life, told the story when being honored with having a community pool named after him in a Wilmington, Delaware, historically black neighborhood. Biden had reportedly been the only white lifeguard at the pool during the early 1960s when segregation was still in effect.

The event started with Biden discussing how his time as a lifeguard had opened his eyes about racial injustice and privilege. It, however, quickly took a strange turn when Biden, flanked by children from the local community, decided to recount a nearly violent altercation he had at the pool with a misbehaving swimmer.

“Corn Pop was a bad dude, and he ran a bunch of bad boys. Back in those days, to show how things have changed … if you used pomade in your hair, you had to wear a bathing cap,” Biden said. “He was up on the board and wouldn’t listen to me, so I said ‘Hey, Esther, you, off the board or I’ll come up and drag you off.'”

Corn Pop, according to the former vice president, did not take kindly to being called “Esther” — an “emasculating” reference to the 1950s swimmer Esther Williams, as the Washington Post noted — and promised to “meet” him outside. Biden realized he had to take Corn Pop seriously when he purportedly saw the gang leader waiting around for him with three other guys carrying straight razors.

In his 2007 autobiography, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, Biden admitted that he specifically signaled out Corn Pop for violating the pool’s rules to show he “wasn’t an easy mark.” The former vice president also wrote that his first instinct was to call the police, but he was convinced by the pool’s mechanic, a white former Navy sailor named Bill Wright, that doing so would ensure he would never be trusted by the neighborhood’s black community. Instead, Wright suggested Biden confront Corn Pop and the others with “a six-foot length of chain.”

Biden, as he described in his autobiography, took the advice, walked outside, and said, “You might cut me, Corn Pop, but I’m going to wrap this chain around your head before you do.”

“I looked at him, but I was smart then,” Biden told the audience in 2017. He said he told Corn Pop, “first of all, when I tell you to get off the board, you get off the board, and I’ll kick you out again, but I shouldn’t have called you Esther Williams. I apologize for that. … I apologize for what I said.”

The apology seemed to diffuse the situation, much to Biden’s relief.

“He said ‘okay,’ closed his straight razor, and my heart began to beat again,” the former vice president said.

The story came back into the spotlight on Saturday after numerous individuals shared clips from the 2017 pool dedication on social media. Many of those seeing the clip for the first time immediately accused the former vice president of fabricating the story. Most notably, Michael Harriot, a senior writer for The Root, took to social media to blast the story as “alien-like.”

Although Biden’s retelling of the altercation was corroborated at the dedication ceremony by a former chairman of the Delaware NAACP, those unaware of the fact agreed with Harriot that the story seemed comically embellished if not totally concocted.

Biden, himself, has not done his credibility any favors in recent weeks by downplaying his fabrication of an emotional story about the war in Afghanistan, even after the Post debunked nearly every detail.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.