Biden's bogus college claim is just latest in decades-long pattern of embellishment

Biden has repeatedly told stories throughout the years that have proven to be exaggerations if not outright false

President Biden falsely claimed earlier this week that he was the "first" person in his family to "go to college," continuing a decades-long habit of making false or embellished claims about his life.

Biden has been scrutinized several times over the years for fabricating tales, including a claim he was arrested in apartheid-era South Africa, was in a helicopter "forced down" by al Qaeda insurgents in Afghanistan and even trivial events involving an Amtrak conductor who died before Biden's alleged story took place.

Biden continued the trend Monday while speaking in the battleground state of Wisconsin as he outlined his plan to provide "life-changing" relief for student loan debt. 


President Biden at COP26

President Biden has a history of exaggerated tales about his life and career. (Fox News)

"I, like an awful lot of people in this audience, was the first in my family to go to college," Biden told the crowd.

However, less than two years ago, during a speech in Pennsylvania, Biden told an audience his grandfather played college football.

"My grandfather Finnegan from Scranton would really be proud of me right now,' Biden said in Pittsburgh in October 2022. "No, I'm not joking. He would. By the way, he was an All-American football player [inaudible] in Santa Clara."

When asked about Biden's recent comments and his embellishments throughout the years, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Fox News Digital President Biden "is proud to have restored honesty, integrity and respect for the rule of law to the Oval Office."

He added that Biden is also proud "to be the first Biden to graduate college." 

Biden's exaggerations regarding college also extend to a previous claim he taught "political theory" at the University of Pennsylvania, which he mentioned in Maryland in September 2023.

"Democracy is at stake, folks. Our democracy is under attack. And we gotta fight for it," Biden said. "I taught at the University of Pennsylvania for four years. And I used to teach political theory. And, folks, you always hear every generation has to fight for democracy. And I found myself — it's automatic, we didn't have to believe it — but we do. We do."


President Biden in profile shot looking to right

Fact-checkers have criticized Biden over his stories in the past. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty)

There is little to no evidence that Biden ever taught "political theory" at the University of Pennsylvania. While the university's website notes that the president was the Benjamin Franklin Presidential Professor of Practice from 2017 to 2021, a fact check on his previous but similar claim that he was a "full professor at the University of Pennsylvania" for four years found that "he did not teach a semester's worth of courses" while in this role. 

Snopes noted that this "role was honorary" and that he "gave lectures and talks to students on campus but did not teach a full semester's course load during that time."

Years before, when he ran for president in 1987, Biden exaggerated his academic record by bragging he graduated "in the top half" of his class while berating a reporter on the campaign trail. 

"I think I have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect," Biden told the reporter in New Hampshire at the time. "I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship.

"In the first year of law school, I decided I didn't want to be in law school and ended up in the bottom two-thirds of my class," he said. "And then I decided to stay, went back to law school and, in fact, ended up in the top half of my class."

He later admitted that he graduated 76th in a class of 85. 

"I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school, and my recollection of this was inaccurate," he told The New York Times.

"I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science," he said. "My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors. I said 'three' and should have said 'two.'" 

The outlet pointed out Biden received a single bachelor's degree in history and political science.


A seated President Biden tugs at his collar

Biden's tall tales date back decades. (Getty Images)

Since then, Biden has told numerous stories that have also been deemed exaggerations. Mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, have even called him out on them, including the publication's top fact-checker Glenn Kessler. 

In September 2023, Kessler penned an article about how "Biden loves to retell certain stories" and how some lack credibility. His report assembled several of Biden's accounts, including one about an Amtrak conductor he claimed hailed him for having traveled more than 2 million miles on the railroad, exceeding the 1.2 million miles traveled on Air Force planes as vice president as of 2016. 

However, the conductor retired in 1993 and died two years before Biden reached that milestone in the air. 

Other stories Kessler addressed include Biden's claim he and his father saw two men in suits kissing each other in public when he was a teenager, that he was arrested for trying to see Nelson Mandela in South Africa and how, as vice president, he arranged for his uncle to be presented a Purple Heart that he was owed and never received. The uncle died in 1999, long before Biden was vice president. 

Biden has also been repeatedly called out for his claims of being close with Somali cab drivers in Wilmington, Delaware.

"Somalis have made my city of Wilmington, Delaware, (their home) on a smaller scale. There is a very identifiable Somali community," Vice President Biden said at the time. "I might add if you come to the train station with me, you’ll notice I have great relationships with them because there’s an awful lot driving cabs and are friends of mine. For real. I’m not being solicitous. I’m being serious." 

President Biden, left, holding hands with Jill Biden

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden wear Hawaiian leis as they walk to board Air Force One before departing Kahului Airport in Kahului, Hawaii, Aug. 21, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Politifact, a liberal fact-checking website, rated the statement as "Pants on fire" and said the statement "set eyerolls rolling." Other outlets also covered the claim and dismissed it as "strange" and "insensitive."

Biden also repeated a false claim last year about his house burning down in his attempt to relate to those who lost their homes to wildfires ravaging Maui.

"I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it was like to lose a home," Biden said. "Years ago, now, 15 years, I was in Washington doing ‘Meet the Press.' … Lightning struck at home on a little lake outside the home, not a lake, a big pond. It hit the wire and came up underneath our home, into the … air condition ducts.

"To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my '67 Corvette and my cat," the president added.

A 2004 report from The Associated Press, archived by LexisNexis, said lightning struck the Bidens’ home and started a "small fire that was contained to the kitchen." The report said firefighters got the blaze under control in 20 minutes and that they were able to keep the flames from spreading beyond the kitchen.

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