Joe Biden isn’t one to let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Five days after the president was called out for repeating a debunked tale about an Amtrak conductor, he did it again, telling a New Jersey audience Monday about an encounter with Angelo Negri that would have occurred after the man’s death.
Mr. Biden has recounted the story at least five times since October 2020, including last Wednesday at a speech plugging his infrastructure plan in Scranton, Pennsylvania, prompting scrutiny from right-tilting media outlets and an Associated Press fact-check Tuesday that didn’t go well for the president.
“The tale as Biden spins it is wrong. Negri could not have had that conversation because he was already deceased by the time Biden logged 1.2 million miles on Air Force Two,” said the AP account headlined, “Biden tale of Amtrak conductor doesn’t add up.”
The story starts with Mr. Biden boarding an Amtrak train as vice president when Mr. Negri, a longtime Amtrak employee who became a friend, approached him.
“And Ang walks up to me and goes, ‘Joey, baby!’ Grabs my cheek. And I thought the Secret Service was going to blow his head off,” Mr. Biden said to laughter. “I swear to God. True story.”
He said Mr. Negri was irked by news reports about Mr. Biden hitting 1.2 million miles on Air Force Two, telling him that he traveled 2.2 million miles on Amtrak during his regular treks between Delaware and Washington, D.C., starting when he was a senator.
“And then he goes, ‘So, Joey, I don’t hear this about the Air Force anymore,’” Mr. Biden told the gathering at the New Jersey Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex.
As a CNN fact-check reported in June, Mr. Negri retired in 1993 and died in May 2014. Mr. Biden has previously said he was in the seventh year of his vice presidency when he reached the frequent-flyer milestone, which would have been 2015.
An April 2016 report in Business Insider said that Mr. Biden crossed 1 million miles on Air Force Two “late last year.”
“The story could not possibly be true,” said the CNN report headlined, “Biden keeps repeating a false story about an Amtrak conductor he knew.”
Explanations for the implausible tale have swirled — maybe Mr. Biden confused Mr. Negri with another conductor, or botched the timeline — but the White House has so far remained mum.
The Washington Times has reached out to the administration for comment.
In May, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the Amtrak story, but said she was unfamiliar with it.
“I haven’t seen that,” she told reporters in a press gaggle. “But the president’s long history with Amtrak and appreciation for the hardworking employees is very well known.”
The White House silence comes even though the Amtrak yarn is starting to draw the wrong kinds of attention, especially given Mr. Biden‘s long history of embellishing his past.
“A Fake Story Joe Biden Can’t Stop Telling,” said the Monday headline on a Wall Street Journal op-ed by James Freeman.
The Washington Times, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, Fox News and the Daily Wire, have also run stories in the last week pointing out the discrepancy, while Fox News host Harris Faulkner discussed it Tuesday with The Hill columnist Joe Concha.
“The president said that he had this very specific conversation with a conductor on a train when he was vice president, a conductor who retired 16 years before that conversation that obviously never happened, happened,” Mr. Concha said. “One would think that his chief communications adviser, Jen Psaki, would step in and instruct him, ‘Maybe we don’t go down this road anymore.’”
He added, “I don’t even know what the point is of telling that story in the first place.”
The latest retellings come as the president takes to the road to sell his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package, which includes funding for public transportation.
The Republican National Committee has taken note, tweeting Monday: “Joe Biden tells a debunked story about a conversation with an Amtrak worker for the FIFTH time as president.”
Mr. Biden‘s previous whoppers include telling mine workers in 2008 that “I am a hard coal miner,” although he wasn’t; saying 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 declaring that he met with the Parkland shooting survivors as vice president, even though the 2018 massacre occurred after he left office.