Joe Biden tries to make truthfulness an election issue, while telling some whoppers of his own

Biden, for his part, has begun playing into the “truthfulness” angle, even conceding some ground on his age when asserting the preeminence of honesty as a consideration.

Published: July 2, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: July 2, 2024 11:52pm

In the wake of a widely panned debate performance, President Joe Biden and his supporters have attempted to deflect from his own public image by claiming former President Donald Trump lied. But it turns out that Biden has told some of his own whoppers, and his record may prove a liability in a contest of truthfulness.

The debate Thursday night saw Biden often stare off into the distance or drift his gaze from left to right as though he were lost. His own answers included many stumbles and were often incoherent, drawing harsh reactions from conservatives, who have long pointed to his allegedly declining mental acuity, and even from his supporters on the left.

“[F]or a lot of people who get their news sanitized either by social media, or some of the major left leaning news outlets, which is just about every single one of them, mostly, a lot of those people have never seen that version of Joe Biden,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., said on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast. “So that's why I think they were stunned to see that.”

The performance overall reignited concerns over his physical and mental fitness for office in light of his advanced age and even sparked calls for him to stand aside in favor of another Democratic nominee.

Instead, the campaign appears to be doubling down as Democratic operatives highlight Trump’s own statements that they argue were false. Their goal is both to justify Biden’s own debate performance and his continued candidacy against the Republican. 

"It’s hard to debate a liar. The New York Times pointed out [Trump] lied 26 times,” Biden campaign spokesperson Seth Schuster said.

Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, appeared to concede that Biden’s performance had been poor, but like other Democrats, urged supporters to consider the larger choice between him and Trump, and characterizing Biden's disastrous appearance as a mere "blip," reported The New York Times.

“Bad debate nights happen. Trust me, I know. But this election is still a choice between someone who has fought for ordinary folks his entire life and someone who only cares about himself,” he said. “Between someone who tells the truth; who knows right from wrong and will give it to the American people straight — and someone who lies through his teeth for his own benefit. Last night didn’t change that, and it’s why so much is at stake in November.”

Biden, for his part, has begun playing into the “truthfulness” angle, even conceding some ground on his age when asserting the preeminence of honesty as a consideration.

“I know I’m not a young man. But I know how to do this job. I know right from wrong,” Biden said in a subsequent campaign ad. “I know how to tell the truth. And I know, like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down you get back up.”

The approach, however, has some industry experts scratching their heads.

“You know, I always talk about when a politician starts down this path, because voters are very cynical. They assume if you're a politician, you have a very loose relationship with the truth,” pollster Scott Rasmussen said on the “Just the News, No Noise” television show this week. “I mean, it's just part of the process.”

“Before this debate, 41% of voters told us that Joe Biden is less ethical than most politicians. And that's a very low bar. Less ethical than most politicians,” he went on. “Fifty-one percent say the same about Donald Trump. So accusing either of these men of being a liar. For most people, it's like, okay, so what else is new?”

Inflation at 9% when he took office

Biden repeatedly claimed in May that inflation stood at 9% when he took office, earning a fact check from CNN, which asserted the claim was “not close to true.” He later appeared to walk back the claim during the debate in response to pressure from Trump.

“He also said he inherited 9% inflation. Now he inherited almost no inflation, and it stayed that way for 14 months, and then it blew up under his leadership, because they spent money like a bunch of people that didn't know what they were doing,” the former president said of Biden. Inflation stood at 1.4% in January of 2021, but reached a high of 9.1% in June of 2022 under Biden’s administration.

In attempting to fend off Trump’s criticisms, Biden conceded that “there was no inflation when I became president” but attempted to claim the lack of rising prices was due to poor economic conditions.

“The economy was flat on its back, 15% unemployment. He decimated the economy. Absolutely decimated the economy. That's why there was no inflation. At the time. There were no jobs,” Biden said.

“Fine people”

During the debate, Biden claimed that he was motivated to run for president in light of the debunked narrative that Trump had referred to neo-Nazis and white nationalists as “very fine people.” 

The longstanding narrative was corrected by left-wing fact-checker Snopes days ahead of the debate. Trump himself explicitly stated in his 2017 remarks that white nationalists and neo-Nazis should be “condemned totally.”

"I said I wasn't going to run again until I saw what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. People coming out of the woods carrying swastikas on torture and and singing the same antisemitic bile they sang when back in Germany," he said. "They asked [Trump], they said, 'What? What do you think of those people'... He said, 'I think there's fine people on both sides.'"

No dying soldiers

Sparring with Trump over foreign affairs, Biden insisted that his administration had not witnessed the death of any U.S. service members, despite the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 that saw more than a dozen American personnel and 170 Afghans die.

"And the military, you know, when he was president, they were still killing people in Afghanistan,” Biden said. “He didn't do anything about that. When he was president, we were still – find ourselves in where you had a notion that we were this safe country.”

“The truth is, I'm the only president this century that doesn't have any this decade, any troops dying anywhere in the world like he did,” he declared.

The claim was decidedly false, as 13 U.S. service members perished in the Abbey Gate bombing at the Kabul airport during the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Among the dead were 11 U.S. Marines.

Border Patrol "endorsement"

Speaking on immigration, Biden asserted that he had worked to secure bipartisan legislation to address border security and that his administration had “increased the number of asylum officers significantly.”

“By the way, the border patrolmen endorsed me, endorsed my position,” he said. The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) did express support for a bipartisan deal pairing some border security reforms with foreign aid to Ukraine in February.

NBPC Vice President Art del Cueto told “Just the News, No Noise” at the time that the bill “brings some kind of normalcy to the mess that was created under this administration.” While it remains unclear whether Biden was referring to the union’s support for that measure, the NBPC did post on X after the president made his remarks asserting their position on his candidacy.

“To be clear, we never have and never will endorse Biden,” the NBPC said.

Immigration numbers

Biden further referenced his recent executive order narrowing the eligibility of would-be entrants to the U.S. to claim asylum, insisting that it had resulted in a substantial drop in monthly crossings relative to the levels under his predecessor.

“What I've done since I've changed the law, what's happened in the way that now you're in a situation where there are 40% fewer people coming across the border illegally,” Biden claimed. “That's better than when he left office, and I'm going to continue to move into it, the total ban on the initiative relative to what we're going to do with more Border Patrol and more asylum officers.”

The claim drew scrutiny from multiple fact-checkers. CBS News noted that internal Department of Homeland Security data suggested border crossings have fallen to approximately 2,000 per day in the wake of Biden’s order, a 47% decline from May’s average of 3,800. The outlet did, however, highlight that Trump’s tenure saw months in which the average illegal crossings fell below 2,000 per day.

National Public Radio (NPR), for its part, suggested that the initial decline would potentially reverse itself as would-be entrants to the U.S. assessed the impact of Biden’s order.

“Migrants tend to go into a wait-and-see period before crossing again,” the outlet stated. “Many migrants who have talked to NPR in Mexican border communities have said they will attempt to cross, despite the policies.”

Biden’s order itself also includes a litany of exceptions, including for those who make appointments through the CBP One app to appear at ports-of-entry.

Kamala claims Trump would ban abortion

Vice President Kamala Harris this week earned a public fact check with her claims that Trump would seek to ban abortion nationwide, despite his repeated statements to the contrary.

"Donald Trump would ban abortion nationwide. President [Joe Biden] and I will do everything in our power to stop him and restore women's reproductive freedom," she posted on X, earning a community note from the platform that read "President Trump has repeatedly said he will not sign a national abortion ban.”

Trump has defended his appointment of three Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, but has declined to support national restrictions. Instead, he has espoused support for addressing the matter at the state level.

“What I did is I put three great Supreme Court justices on the court, and they happened to vote favor of killing Roe v. Wade and moving it back to states,” he said. "Now the states are working it out. If you look at Ohio, it was a decision that was – it was an end result that was a little bit more liberal than you would have thought. Kansas, I would say the same thing. Texas is different. Florida is different, but they're all making their own decisions right now, and right now, states control it."

Trump has further backed exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape, incest, or threats to the life of the mother.

Biden says SCOTUS immunity ruling gives "virtually no limits" on presidential power

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on presidential immunity in special counsel Jack Smith’s election case against former President Donald Trump, Biden said that the decision had sweeping implications for presidential authority.

"Today's decision almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits on what a president can do. This [is] a fundamentally new principle, and it's a dangerous precedent," he said. "The power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States. The only limits will be self imposed."

The court did not grant Trump immunity for unofficial acts.

"Under our constitutional structure of separated powers, the nature of Presidential power entitles a former President to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority. And he is entitled to at least presumptive immunity from prosecution for all his official acts," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the decision.

In an effort to rehabilitate the image of an “elderly man with a poor memory,” as special counsel Robert Hur described him, Biden is scheduled to record an interview Friday in what will be an almost certainly welcoming and non-confrontational setting, hosted by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Before his career as a television journalist, Stephanopoulos was a communications director for the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and subsequently became Clinton's White House communications director. 

According to trade journal Deadline, the interview will be edited and not aired live. "Stephanopoulos will interview Biden on Friday, with the “extended” interview, as ABC News terms it, set to air on Sunday on This Week and Good Morning America on Monday. The first portions of the interview will air on World News Tonight on Friday evening, with more on the weekend editions of GMA.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X.

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