Fact Checker: Joe Biden’s Claim of Traveling 17,000 Miles with Xi Jinping ‘Can’t Be Verified’

In this August 2011 file photo, then Vice President Xi Jinping accompanies then Vice Presi
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler awarded President Joe Biden with “Three Pinocchios” Friday for his claims of traveling with Chinese President Xi Jinping for 17,000 miles.

Biden has made this claim several times in the past few years. “I traveled 17,000 miles with him, the president of China… we traveled around the world together, in the United States and China, he said on the campaign trail in January 2020.

On February 7, 2021, he declared: “I had 24-25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president, traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.”

Renewing his boast during Tuesday’s CNN town hall, President Biden said, “My point was that when I came back from meeting with him and traveling 17,000 miles with him when I was vice president and he was the vice president — that’s how I got to know him so well.”

On Friday morning, Kessler wrote of the claim: “That’s certainly an impressive amount of face time with Xi. But Biden’s mileage number has kept us puzzling till our puzzler was sore.”

The White House, responding to inquiries from Kessler, said it is “not accurate” to say Biden traveled with Xi for so many miles. “’This was a reference to the total travel back and forth — both internally in the U.S. and China, and as well as internationally — for meetings they held together,'” a White House official said. “‘Some travel was in parallel, some was separately to joint destinations.’”

“Try as we could, however, we still could not get the travel to add up to 17,000 miles, ” Kessler continued. “But clearly it’s a number he deems important enough to repeat often.”

Ultimately, the Washington Post fact checker awarded Biden three out of a maximum four “Pinocchios,” ruling: “Biden’s claim is not completely from whole cloth. He did meet Xi in various cities in China and United States, in some cases traveling substantial distances. But numbers are numbers. Biden is using a figure that cannot be verified in a misleading way.”

During Biden’s town hall this week, Kessler ran cover for the president when he falsely claimed his administration “didn’t have” a vaccine for COVID-19 when he came into office this January. Kessler wrote on social media: “It was a verbal stumble, a typical Biden gaffe,” telling pro-Trump commentators that they looked “silly” for correcting the falsehood.


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