US Democratic Presidential contender and former vice president, Joe Biden has controversially claimed that he was arrested in South Africa during apartheid, while trying to see former president Nelson Mandela, The New York Times reported.
Biden made the claim as the world marked 30 years since the apartheid icon was released from prison while on the campaign trail last week. He reportedly claimed that he was arrested along with the US’ UN ambassador.
“I had the great honour of meeting him (Mandela). I had the great honour of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island (sic),” the Times quoted Biden as saying at an event in South Carolina last week.
Andrew Young, a former congressman and mayor of Atlanta who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, said that he had traveled with Mr. Biden over the years, including to South Africa. But Mr. Young said that he had never been arrested in South Africa and expressed skepticism that members of Congress would have faced arrest there.
“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Mr. Young, now 87, said in a telephone interview.
The New York Times reasoned that if Mr. Biden, then a United States senator from Delaware, was in fact arrested while trying to visit Mr. Mandela, he did not mention it in his 2007 memoir when writing about a 1970s trip to South Africa, and he has not spoken of it prominently on the 2020 campaign trail.
A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest. South African arrest records are not readily available in the United States.
Biden has also faced backlash on Twitter, with many people wondering why this event did not make the news at the time.
The Biden campaign is under pressure to perform well as the Democratic primaries head into more racially diverse states.
Democrat candidates will compete in the Nevada caucus on Saturday.
With Vermont senator Bernie Sanders largely seen as the party’s front-runner, competition is fierce as the other candidates vie for second place. Biden has pinned his campaign on his popularity among more diverse populations, according to CNN.
Biden has the most support among black registered Democratic primary voters, NBC News reported. Support from this demographic for Sanders is catching up to Biden’s numbers, according to the report.
Biden is banking on this support following a poor showing in a poll earlier in February, Business Insider reported.