An attempt by Joe Biden’s aides to explain away the former vice president’s 1987 claim to have “marched” in the civil rights movement sparked laughs from a panel on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper introduced the topic by citing a New York Times account of Biden’s 1987 “false claim” published Monday. The 2020 presidential candidate’s direct quote from the report, which discusses the “calamity” and “missteps” of his first presidential run, reads:
“When I marched in the civil rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Mr. Biden thundered, testing his presidential message in February 1987 before a New Hampshire audience. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes. And we changed attitudes.”
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. And more than once, Mr. Biden assured them he understood — and kept telling the story anyway.
“That is really, really weird,” Tapper said before handing the conversation off to his panel.
CNN Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny said:
It is … When he gets very comfortable out on the stump speaking and other things, he has tended to embellish. He has tended to, you know, make things sound slightly rosier than they are. Now, his aides have went back to say, ‘Look, he was in office marching for the idea of civil rights, but was not actually marching in the streets.’ But that would not fly as much [today].
The panel then started to laugh.
“That’s not what the word marching means,” Tapper joked. “I know, you’re just telling what they said.”
“But in the day of Twitter and Instagram, there would be pictures of him not marching,” said Zeleny. “So, you cannot get away with that. That’s his big challenge, can he modernize, and has he sort of brushed away all of those old tendencies he had that ultimately ended up with him dropping out before the Iowa Caucuses by — because he plagiarized a speech.” (RELATED: That Time Joe Biden Condemned Amnesty, Said Immigrants Should Learn English)
Former Hillary Clinton spokeswoman Karen Finney called the idea of another candidate questioning Biden on his claim “a perfect moment for a debate.”