Biden’s Delaware State comments taken out of context, DSU official says

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden (Adam Schultz/Biden for President)

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A report last week in the conservative Washington Times newspaper accuses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of lying about his connection to Delaware State University, Delaware’s only historically Black college or university. That report uses quotes from DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes, comments Holmes says are being used dishonestly.

During the 2019 primary, Biden was speaking at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina, a school founded in 1866 by the Freedmen’s Bureau as a school for African American children. Biden referenced Delaware State, saying “I got started out of an HBCU, Delaware State.” Biden never said he attended DSU, despite the Times’ headline stating that he did.

The Times’ story then quotes Holmes answering the paper’s inquiry.

“Vice President Biden did not attend DSU,” said Mr. Holmes in a Thursday email. “However he was the Commencement keynote speaker in 2003 and [2016], and during the former he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree.”

Holmes said while his answer that Biden did not attend DSU is true, he wasn’t aware of the context of the question. “The reporter did not mention anything about his campaign statement last year, and at that point I was totally unaware of it,” Holmes said in an email Tuesday morning. “It is unfortunate that the Washington Times never asked us to respond to Joe Biden’s comments at the October 2019 town hall in South Carolina. Watched in full context, it is clear that Biden was discussing his long association with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, not making a claim that he had attended Delaware State University.”

Biden has commented that he “got his start” at DSU numerous times over the years. Though in the South Carolina speech, he didn’t add the fuller context he’s used in other instances.

In 2016, Biden spoke at DSU commencement and credited the school with helping him get his start in politics. He reminisced about his 36-year career as Delaware senator, a career that began when he first ran for the office at age 29. He recalled seeking the help of Delaware State students during that campaign despite having, in his words, “no money” and “no real background.”

“It really did start here,” Biden said in 2016. “The only reason I got elected then was because of this campus and the community it represents.”

Holmes says that context extra tells the full story. “He ‘got his start’ when he announced his first run for the U.S. Senate on our campus in 1972 with then-Delaware State College President Luna Mishoe at his side,” Holmes said. “For three decades, first as U.S. Senator and then as Vice President, Joe Biden has been our advocate and partner to such a critical extent that in 2003 the University awarded him an honorary doctorate.”

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