'I guess I wasn't': Joe Biden admits he was not arrested trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison

Democratic presidential candidate now says he was detained after refusing to honour segregated doorways in South Africa

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 28 February 2020 17:37 GMT
Joe Biden looks set to secure crucial lifeline from African American voters

Joe Biden has admitted that he was not arrested trying to visit Nelson Mandela, after repeatedly making the dramatic claim on the campaign trail in recent weeks.

Mr Biden, who has been criticised in the past for making questionable claims about his history, amended his accounting of the events on Friday, after investigations indicated that his story was exceedingly unlikely.

“I guess I wasn’t arrested,” Mr Biden said during an interview on CNN’s “New Day”.

“I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go,” he said.

But Mr Biden stressed that he did have a history working on anti-apartheid measures during his time as a US senator, including on the trip 30 years ago when he previously claimed he was arrested alongside the US ambassador to the United Nations, who had disputed being arrested.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to go in that door that says white only,” Mr Biden said during his Friday interview. “‘I’m going with them.’ They said, ‘You’re not, you can’t move, you can’t go with them,’ and they, and they kept me there until finally I decided that it was clear I wasn’t going to move. And so what they finally did, they said, OK, they’re not going to make the congressional delegation go through the black door, they’re not going to make me go through the white door.”

The new version of the encounter comes after Mr Biden claimed on the campaign trail that he had been arrested alongside that UN ambassador, Andrew Young, during a trip to South African in the 1970s. He said they also attempted to visit Mandela in prison during that visit.

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Mr Biden said earlier this month at a campaign event in South Carolina. “I had the great honour of meeting him. I had the great honour of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him.”

He later said that Mandela “came to Washington and came to my office. He threw his arms around me and said, ‘I want to thank you,’ I said, ‘What are you thinking me for, Mr President?’ He said, ‘You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.’”

Mr Young, for his part, told the New York Times in an interview last week that, “No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either.”

Mr Biden has also amended his recounting of the meeting with Mandela in Washington.

“When Nelson Mandela was freed and came to the United States, he came to my office. He was one of the most incredible men I ever met,” he said. “He sat down in my office, thanked me, thanked me for trying to, all the work I did on apartheid.”

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