President Biden claimed Friday that his uncle Frank Biden won the Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II — but there’s no evidence of the award and key details of the story are chronologically impossible.
The 80-year-old commander-in-chief has a habit of sharing false or embellished personal anecdotes to build a connection with his audiences and told his latest apparent tall tale during largely unscripted remarks to veterans in Delaware.
“My dad, when I got elected vice president [in 2008], he said, ‘Joey, Uncle Frank fought in the Battle of the Bulge.’ He was not feeling very well now — not because of the Battle the Bulge, but he said, ‘and he won the Purple Heart and he never received it. He never got it. Do you think you could help him get it? We will surprise him,’” the president recalled.
“So I got him the Purple Heart. He had won it in the Battle of the Bulge. And I remember he came over the house and I came out and [my father] said, ‘Present it to him, okay?’ We had the family there,” Biden went on.
“I said, ‘Uncle Frank, you’ve won this and I wanted to —’ and he said, ‘I don’t want the damn thing.’ No, I’m serious, he said, ‘I don’t want it.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter, Uncle Frank? You earned it.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but the others died. The others died. I lived. I don’t want it.’”
Biden told the story apparently to make a point about the humility of veterans, but the known facts indicate it’s not true.
Biden’s father, Joseph R. Biden Sr., died in September 2002 — more than six years before his son was elected vice president. Frank Biden, Joe Sr.’s brother, died in 1999.
The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment. The Defense Department referred questions to the Army — the military branch in which Frank Biden served — but the Army did not immediately respond.
Frank Biden’s tombstone does not identify him as a Purple Heart recipient, nor does his obituary. A registry of Purple Heart winners also doesn’t note anyone by that name receiving the award, which honors soldiers wounded or killed while fighting on behalf of the United States.
The Post’s librarians could not locate prior references to Frank Biden receiving the Purple Heart in the Nexis archive and the Factba.se repository of Joe Biden’s public statements also doesn’t contain prior references.
The tale involving Biden’s uncle is similar to another emotionally impactful but false story told by then-presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2019 — this one involving a Navy captain supposedly refusing to accept a Silver Star for his heroism in Afghanistan. A Washington Post fact check from the time said Biden “jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion, and regret that never happened.”
Biden is the oldest-ever US president and his mental acuity frequently is a matter of public debate — particularly after he asked “Where’s Jackie?” as he searched for the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) in September, despite publicly mourning her death and even calling her family to offer his condolences in August. Multiple times this year, Biden has incorrectly said that his son Beau Biden died in Iraq.
But Biden also has a decades-long habit of stretching the truth and ended his first presidential campaign in 1987 due to a scandal involving plagiarism of speeches and a law school paper.
Then-Senator Biden infamously borrowed British politician Neil Kinnock’s family history — with Biden changing geographic details to falsely claim in speeches that “my ancestors … worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours.” Unlike Kinnock, who had used the line to describe his own family in Wales, Biden’s ancestors did not mine coal.
Biden also falsely claimed in 1987 that he “graduated with three degrees from college,” was named “the outstanding student in the political science department,” “went to law school on a full academic scholarship — the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship” and ”ended up in the top half” of his class. None of those claims were true.
Since becoming president, Biden has shared a number of false or embellished stories in an apparent attempt to connect with his audiences.
In January, Biden told students at historically black colleges in Atlanta that he was arrested during civil rights protests — for which there is no evidence.
Biden in September 2021 told Jewish leaders that he remembered “spending time at” and “going to” the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the mass murder of 11 people there in 2018. The synagogue said he never visited and the White House later said he was thinking about a 2019 phone call to the synagogue’s rabbi.
Also last September, Biden told an Idaho audience that his “first job offer” came from local lumber and wood products business Boise Cascade. The company said it was news to them and Biden had not previously described an interest in moving to the state.
In May of this year, Biden said at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony that he was appointed to the military school in 1965 by the late Sen. J. Caleb Boggs (R-Del.). A search of Boggs’ archives failed to turn up evidence of the appointment.
In October, Biden dubiously claimed that “I was sort of raised in the Puerto Rican community at home, politically” while visiting the US territory. And at a fire-safety event the same month, Biden said firefighters nearly died extinguishing a blaze in his kitchen in 2004, prompting the local fire department to describe it as relatively “insignificant” for trained professionals.
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