Former Vice President Joe Biden has claimed in at least three recent campaign appearances that he was arrested, along with a U.S. ambassador, during a trip to South Africa in the 1970s while trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison, but at least one person who traveled with Biden over the years said he doubts his story.
"No, I was never arrested, and I don't think he was, either," former congressman and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, told The New York Times.
He noted he traveled with Biden often over the years, including to South Africa, but added he had never been arrested in South Africa, and he does not think members of Congress, where Biden served for years, would have been arrested, either.
"People were being arrested in Washington," Young said. "I don't think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa."
He said he has a great deal of respect for Biden, but he is supporting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign.
Biden, who is pushing for more diverse votes, said last week that on "this day, 30 years ago," Mandela had walked out of prison to enter into discussions about apartheid.
"I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robben Island," Biden claimed.
However, Biden, who was at that time a senator from Delaware, also said he got arrested in South Africa between efforts at coaxing his wife to marry him. They were engaged in 1977.
Biden also did not mention the arrest in his 2007 memoir, and until now, the arrest was not mentioned much on the 2020 campaign trail.
Ex-Sen. Gary Hart, who joined the Senate in 1975 and had been a vocal opponent of apartheid, said he knows "nothing about that" when asked if Biden had been arrested.
Biden's campaign didn't respond to the Times' efforts for comments and clarification.
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