President Biden was caught in an apparent fib Wednesday after he repeated a previously debunked yarn about an encounter with an Amtrak employee who died a year before the conversation allegedly took place.
Mr. Biden told an audience in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, that Angelo Negri informed him that he had traveled more than 2 million miles on Amtrak in the seventh year of his vice presidency, which would have been 2015.
Mr. Negri retired from Amtrak in 1993 and died in 2014, a discrepancy flagged Thursday by the [U.K.] Daily Mail, which said Mr. Biden has told the tale in public at least five times since October 2020, including four times since becoming president.
His decision to repeat the anecdote came even though CNN fact-checked his April retelling a few months ago and concluded that “the story could not possibly be true.”
The White House has kept a tight rein on appearances by and interviews of Mr. Biden, who has a long history of exaggerating, embellishing and reinventing his past in public remarks.
In the latest incident, Mr. Biden veered off on the Amtrak tangent before delivering his pitch for the $3.5 trillion social spending plan and the $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton.
He said Negri informed him of his Amtrak mileage after the Air Force announced that he had flown more than 1 million miles on Air Force Two.
“And then Ang comes up, and I’m getting into the car, and he goes, ‘Joey, baby. What do you … ‘ and I thought the Secret Service was going to shoot him,” Mr. Biden said to laughter. “I said, ‘No, no, no, no. He’s good. He’s good.’ It’s a true story.”
He said Negri told him he had traveled more than 2 million miles on Amtrak, and declared, “I don’t want to hear any more about the Air Force.”
Nobody disputes that Mr. Biden racked up Amtrak miles commuting as a senator from Delaware to Washington, D.C., and that he was friends with Negri. But if he reached the Air Force milestone in his seventh year as vice president, as he has said, such a conversation would have been impossible.
“All that considered, it’s possible that Biden was misremembering the details of some real conversation he had with Negri prior to Negri‘s death in 2014. Or Biden could have been mixing up Negri with another Amtrak conductor he spoke to in 2015 or 2016,” said the CNN June 30 fact-check. “But the President has now named Negri in at least three inaccurate tellings of the story since October, sometimes delivering Negri‘s supposed quotes in his interpretation of the man’s voice.”
Anyone who speaks in public as often as a senator or president will inevitably make mistakes, and politicians are known for their spin, but what separates Mr. Biden is his penchant for falsehoods about easily checked facts.
For example: He told mine workers in 2008 that “I am a hard coal miner,” although he wasn’t; he said twice last year that he was arrested trying to meet Nelson Mandela in South Africa, a tale that the Washington Post fact-checker called “ridiculous,” and he said in 2019 he met with the Parkland shooting survivors as vice president, even though the 2018 massacre occurred after he left office.
Most of his tall tales amount to self-aggrandizement, but at least one was damaging to others.
He suggested at least twice that his wife and one-year-old daughter were killed in 1972 by a drunk driver. The tractor-trailer driver who hit their car was not found to have been drinking and was never charged.
The driver’s daughter, Pam Hamill, told Politico that Mr. Biden called to apologize after a 2009 report on the discrepancy by CBS News.