Fact Check

Biden Was Arrested as Kid While Standing with Black Family During Desegregation Protest?

The president has told the story more than once, and in more than one way.

Published May 12, 2024

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Claim:
U.S. President Joe Biden was arrested as a kid while standing on a porch with a Black family as white people protested desegregation.

On April 26, 2024, U.S. President Joe Biden was interviewed by radio personality?Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show, where he claimed that as a child growing up in Delaware, he was arrested while standing with a Black family on their porch during protests by white people against racial desegregation in their community. The?claim?spread across news outlets?and?social media platforms.?However, a number of investigations by news organizations, including Snopes, have failed to find evidence to support Biden's claim.

During the interview, the president recounted a conversation with his mother, Catherine Finnegan, recalling her warning against joining protests during the desegregation of Lynnfield:

"I looked at my mom. I said, 'Honey, you haven't said anything.' She said, 'Joey, remember,' true story, she said, 'Remember when they were desegregating Lynnfield the neighborhood into 70 homes?'" President Biden told Stern during the interview. "'And I told you, there was a Black family moving in and there were people down there protesting. I told you not to go down there and you went down. Remember that? And you came, you got arrested for standing out on the porch with a Black family. And they brought you back, the police.' And I said 'Yeah, Mom, I remember that.'"

Biden's assertion on Stern's show gained traction across various accounts?on X, sparking skepticism among users about its veracity.

One X user, Greg Price, a spokesman for the State Freedom Caucus Network, shared the alleged incident, stating that "On Howard Stern's show today, Biden claimed … he was arrested as a kid while standing with a black family on their porch as people were protesting desegregation. (Lie)." That post had received 4.3 million views at the time of this writing.

An account managed by the Republican National Committee, RNC Research, wrote, "Biden claims he 'got arrested standing on the porch with a Black family' during the civil rights movement. That never happened."

Snopes agrees with that assessment and rates this claim "False." We reached out to the White House, which did not respond to a request for comment.?

The origins of this story trace back to October 2018, when Biden told the anecdote to the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan in the context of a conversation he had with his mother in 2008, when he was deciding whether to join Democratic presidential nominee?Barack Obama as his vice-presidential running mate. According to PolitiFact, he said:

"She said, 'Joey, didn't I call you about a month ago and ask you about Barack?' I said, 'Yeah, mom.' She said, 'Didn't you say to me you thought he was really bright and had a great deal of integrity and would make a good president if he was the nominee?' I said, 'Yeah.'

"She said, 'Joey, remember at 15 years old and that real estate agent sold a house to the Black couple in Lynnfield.' … This was in suburban sprawl, the neighboring neighborhood. 'I told you not to go down there because of the protests, and you went down and you got arrested because you were standing on the porch with the Black couple?' I said, 'Yeah, mom. I remember that.'"

Investigations into Biden's past have found no records indicating that he was formally booked at a police station or faced any consequences in the criminal justice system. In some instances, when recounting the Lynnfield anecdote, Biden himself has characterized the police's actions as merely driving him home, rather than taking him into custody.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden repeated the anecdote while appearing via Zoom as a guest on Oprah Winfrey's show, but did not mention being arrested, only that his mother had said the "police brought you home because they thought you'd get in trouble."?

While instances of racial discrimination in housing occurred near Biden's Delaware residence during his teenage years, there is no credible evidence to support the claim of his arrest in connection with these incidents.

A report published Feb. 25, 1959, in?Wilmington newspaper The News-Journal?documented seven arrests linked to a protest at a Collins Park residence, about 10 miles south of Lynnfield. According to?PolitiFact, among those arrested were three men charged with disturbing the peace and four teenagers apprehended for possessing fireworks.

Similarly, an Associated Press article from the same year mentioned arrests at the home of a Black family but did not name Biden. According to the report, a 17-year-old, described as the son of a "Harold Figgett," was arrested for juvenile delinquency, alongside three members of his family, during a protest that took place on a Saturday at the home of a Black family "in a previously all-white housing development." It's worth noting that Biden would have been 16 years old at the time.?

Forbes, in its "Biden-Trump Gaffe Tracker," noted that the claim that Biden was arrested during civil rights protests has been disputed, highlighting the lack of evidence to support the assertion. Furthermore, CNN investigated Biden's claim and found it to be unsupported by available evidence. PolitiFact investigated the allegation and concluded that evidence supporting Biden's arrest during civil rights protests is scant. Similarly, The Washington Post also found little substantiation for Biden's repeated claim of being arrested when he was younger.

Biden's 2007 memoir "Promises to Keep," does not mention the president having been arrested at any point in his life. Additionally, his 2017 memoir?"Promise Me, Dad" does not include any mention of being arrested.?

Sources

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Dale, Daniel. "Fact Check: Biden Repeats His Claim That He 'Got Arrested' Defending Civil Rights. There's Still No Evidence for It | CNN Politics." CNN, 26 Apr. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/04/26/politics/fact-check-joe-biden-claim-arrested-defending-civil-rights/index.html.

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Nikki Dobrin is based in Los Angeles and has previously worked at The Walt Disney Company, as well as written and edited for People, USA Today and The Hill.