Now officially the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden offered himself to Americans this week as an affable, trustworthy and experienced alternative for the White House. But his five-decade record in politics offers plenty of controversies ranging from insulting confrontations over IQ and race to fabrications and plagiarism.
An episode from the first of his three runs for president provides a case study. Biden once sparred in 1987 with a political reporter who asked him about his law school record. A tart Biden responded that he “probably” had a “higher IQ” than the reporter. And he claimed he finished in the top half of his class.
It was later revealed that Biden was near the bottom of his law school graduating class at Syracuse University’s College of Law, specifically 76 out of 85 students.
Biden also admitted that he had plagiarized during his first year at the institution.
“I was mistaken, but I was not in any way malevolent,” Biden explained.
The plagiarism tag would follow him into politics. Eventually it was also revealed that Biden had used quotes in speeches as a U.S. senator from Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and Neil Kinnock, a British Labour Party leader, without any attribution.
Earlier this year, he faced plagiarism again when it was revealed his 2020 climate plan lifted some passages from other documents without attribution. The campaign corrected the error.
In 1987, Biden said he marched during the civil rights movement but some media outlets pointed out that was not the case.
“I was not an activist,” Biden explained at a news conference at the time. “I was not out marching.”
These controversies eventually forced Biden from the 1988 presidential race in September 1987.