Controversies that have plagued Joe Biden
In 2022, Joe Biden is most known for his role as the 46th President of the United States. Before that, he was vice president to Barack Obama for eight years. There’s no doubt that Joe Biden is a career politician. However, his bid for presidency unearthed a career that was notched with gaffes and scandals. These controversies ranged from the warily innocuous to those with serious potential to mar his name in politics forever.
For instance, much of Biden’s popularity in the 2020 election was rooted in the aggressive stance he took against Donald Trump. Yet, even his comments there drew controversy, saying in 2016 that if he were in high school with Donald Trump, he would have “taken him behind the gym.” These comments came across as outdated, distasteful, and miscalculated, implying that he would have violently beaten up the then-sitting president.
Gaffes like this have continued to be a problem for President Joe Biden, dating all the way back to his time at law school.
When anyone runs for president, they can expect their entire career to come under scrutiny. This process helps the general public get a better idea of the individual’s character, how professional they are, and whether or not they can trust them. Sometimes, this also involves scrutinizing the individual’s time in academia. Unfortunately for Joe Biden, he wasn’t the perfect student that voters expected him to be.
During Biden’s time at Syracuse Law School, he was accused of plagiarism. A 1965 faculty report found that five pages from one of Biden’s submitted academic papers included five pages of a published law review article unquoted and unreferenced. Biden’s defense was that he simply did not know how to cite his sources properly and had no intention to deceive the institution. He said at the time, “if I had intended to cheat, would I have been so stupid?”. However, the implication of this incident was that at the very least, Biden was an inept student, and at worst, a lying cheater.
Biden’s claims that his accusations of academic plagiarism were a simple accident became harder to believe in 1987 when he faced accusations that he was plagiarising speeches. The accusation centers on a speech from UK politician Neil Kinnock, the then leader of Britain’s Labour Party, and an especially memorable speech delivered in 1987.
Kinnock’s speech said, “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because our predecessors were thick? Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what we had because they didn’t have the talent, or the strength, or the endurance, or the commitment? Of course not. It’s because there was no platform upon which they could stand”.
Biden’s own speech, made only a few months after Kinnock’s, said, “Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because they did not work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of the northeast of Pennsylvania and would come home after 12 hours and play football for four hours? It’s because they didn’t have a platform on which to stand”.
The similarities between the speeches are clearly uncanny, but Biden shot the claims down as nothing more than a storm in a teacup. Trump later used these claims against President Joe Biden, comparing “I haven’t been involved in plagiarism.”
Not smart enough to be President
Included in the scrutiny that took a look back at Joe Biden’s time in academia was the claim that Biden was a consistently bad student. Maybe it was because he was lazy, or maybe it was because he simply wasn’t smart enough to get good grades. Either way, the question was raised – do Americans trust a man with such a bad academic track record to run their country?
Joe Biden attended the University of Delaware in the 1960s, and a look back at his academic record shows that the majority of his grades were Cs and Ds. Which was worlds away from the A+’s expected of a future president. Although Biden’s grades sometimes fluctuated to make a slight improvement, his professors recall him never being an exceptional student. In fact, when he graduated from law school, he was the tenth bottom in his class.
A controversial position on civil rights
He didn’t attend one Civil Rights protest
Biden’s time at college in the 1960s was a fundamentally radical time in US history due to the Civil Rights movement. Although at the time it may have seemed controversial to advocate for the rights of black people, time has since proven that those who did were on the right side of history. During the 1960s, Joe Biden did not take part in any of the protests, stating later that he was not an activist.
He said of his time at law school during the movement, “I was married, I was in law school, I wore sports coats. You’re looking at a middle-class guy. I am who I am. I’m not big on flak jackets and tie-dyed shirts. You know, that’s not me”. These explanations may have resonated with fellow middle-class democrats and even some Republicans. However, it did not win him any favor with black American voters. Many felt they couldn’t trust a presidential candidate who had not acknowledged their fight for rights.
He opposed the busing policy
In the 1970s, Joe Biden entered the US Senate and the integration of schools was a pressing issue. Biden agreed that schools should be integrated. However, he rejected the concept of busing – which pushed integration further to bring African-American children further away from their neighborhoods to go to better schools with better funding.
The case of Anita Hill goes all the way back to 1991 when Joe Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Anita Hill was a law professor who had accused conservative justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Joe Biden oversaw the Supreme Court hearings, attracting a mass of criticism for not allowing other women to come forward and testify against Thomas, as well as allowing ad hominem attacks from Republicans.
The events showed that Biden did not take sexual harassment cases seriously, and his professional behavior had misogynistic undertones, which was a problem for many Democrats. As a result of Biden’s mishandling of the trial, Clarence Thomas is still on the Supreme Court.
In 2022, it’s well documented in the media that Joe Biden has a real tendency to make gaffes in his public comments. Whether this is because of his age or representative of his true values doesn’t matter – Americans weren’t sure if they wanted a president who was inclined to offend people, often without even realizing it.
One of these instances occurred with former president Barack Obama, where Joe Biden’s comments came across as distasteful and offensive towards black people. He said, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate, bright and clean, and a nice-looking guy.” However, Biden and Obama continued to be good friends after the comments were made.
‘Creepy Uncle Joe’
Biden has also had a long track record of making women, such as coworkers, feel uneasy. For example, one former coworker of Biden’s claimed that he left her feeling “gross” and “confused” after kissing the back of her head at a Biden campaign event. This adds to a list of complaints women have had about Biden making them uncomfortable with his behavior – although none of these complaints have accused Biden of sexual misconduct.
Biden’s presidential campaign was full of unearthed scandals and controversies, as any presidential campaign is. However, in October 2020, a bombshell was dropped when Biden’s son Hunter left his laptop at a repair shop in Delaware. Leaks from the laptop showed the involvement of Hunter Biden in Joe Biden’s business activities and the suspicious connotations of many of the transactions.
For instance, one email chain showed that Hunter Biden had introduced his father Joe to an associate from a Ukrainian energy company. Another seemed to show that Biden was given a share of money from a business deal with China. These associations between Biden, China, and Eastern Europe were enough to rouse suspicions amongst the American right.
Allies of Donald Trump used this leak as an opportunity to claim corruption on the part of Joe Biden, while Biden’s campaign rejected the accusations. There were also some concerns over Russian disinformation. However, investigations found that no Russian disinformation was found on the laptop.
The first 100 days
The first 100 days of Biden’s presidency have had their fair share of claims, controversies, and mishandlings. Often though, due to the divisive climate across the country, the claims made from the right with the intention to smear the current Democratic president have ended up overshadowing the real controversies of Biden’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one of the more trivial scandals to crop up in Biden’s presidency so far, one story claimed that Joe Biden’s dog Major was having to be retrained. This was because the dog was supposedly attacking the staff at the White House, biting them, and causing injury. The story implies that Biden had not trained his dog properly, adding the shambolic, corner-cutting characteristics often associated with him.
Canceling Dr. Seuss
Another seemingly small-scale controversy that made an impact amongst Republicans was when Biden was accused of trying to cancel Dr. Seuss. Biden’s comments on Read Across America Day broke from typical tradition by failing to mention Dr. Seuss, happening around the same time that Dr. Seuss Enterprises stopped publishing six books due to the inclusion of racist imagery. Many voices on the side of America’s right-wing claimed that Biden was attempting to erase Dr. Seuss from American history in a form of censorship.
The refugee cap
One key factor in Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign was his promise to raise the refugee cap from where it is currently sitting at the lowest it has ever been. However, on April 16th, 2021, Biden failed to raise the cap at all, going back on his presidential promise.
This caused outrage amongst the left, including many of the people that voted for Joe. The move was even criticized by famous centrist members of the Democrats, such as Dick Durbin. However, Biden has added reason to his behavior by claiming that going back on Trump’s decision to keep the refugee cap at its lowest in history may affect his impact among swing voters.
COVID-19 in nursing homes
One claim emerged in 2021 that Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo suppressed data that illustrated just how catastrophic the COVID-19 pandemic was for New York’s nursing homes. Although this doesn’t really have anything to do with Joe Biden, right-wing media has claimed that this is part of a wider cover-up to minimize the damage done by Biden’s COVID decisions and policies.
Overall, although not as controversial of a democratic candidate as Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden’s political career has still been characterized by a variety of scandals that have impacted his popularity amongst the general public. Although controversy has often lurked in the background of Joe Biden’s public image, it came to the forefront when he was running for president in 2020, which is expected for any candidate.
Biden’s scandals are often relatively harmless, such as claims about his time in academia simply showing that he hasn’t always been the hardest worker. Yet, others threaten to dampen his political career for good – such as claims of misogyny, historical ignorance, and questions surrounding his family connections.
The true test of whether Biden’s career can handle the weight of his scandals will be COVID-19, especially as Americans come to reflect on his handling of the crisis and the future recovery of the US economy.