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Joe Biden mocks his gaffes to Stephen Colbert

05 Sep 2019 Daily Mail Online

Joe Biden on Wednesday mocked his recent spat of gaffes - including his miscounting of a story about awarding a medal to a soldier in Afghanistan - in an interview with Stephen Colbert.

The host of 'The Late Show' pressed the former vice president about his mistakes, asking him bluntly 'are you going nuts?'

'You want to talk about the issues, but a lot of people want to talk about your gaffes,' Colbert said to him. 'You've called yourself a gaffe machine. In the last few weeks you've confused New Hampshire for Vermont, said Bobby Kennedy and MLK were assassinated in the late '70s, assured us, "I'm not going nuts." Follow up question: Are you going nuts?' 

Biden responded with a shot of his own.  

'The reason I came on the Jimmy Kimmel show is because I'm not,' he said as the audience roared with laughter.

Joe Biden mocked his recent spat of gaffes in an interview with Stephen Colbert

'That's going to make the rest of this easier,' Colbert noted.

Biden, 76, and his campaign have struggled in the past few weeks to overcome a narrative of the former vice president's own making: his propensity to confuse and misremember details as he talks to voters. 

Additionally, he's been battling questions about his ability to take on President Donald Trump after he made his series of gaffes, resulting in a growing narrative around his age and mental capacities which his team has been fighting to counteract. 

The Washington Post last week offered a detail report that showed how Biden got numerous details wrong when he talked about awarding a Navy war hero the Silver Star. 

While campaigning in Iowa earlier this month, Biden put the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in the 1970s.

The former vice president also mixed up the timeline around the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February of 2018. He said he was in office at the time but he had already left the White House. 

And, in the second presidential debate, he told viewers a number but forgot to tell them they were supposed to send a text to it. 


Colbert continued to press Biden on the issue, asking him if it was 'fair or unfair to go after you for your gaffes?'

'I think it's fair to go after a political figure for anything. Okay? I mean we're — we stand up and that comes with the territory,' Biden said. 'But here's the deal. Any gaffe that I have made — and I've made gaffes just like any politician I know has — have been not about a substantive issue but I'm trying to talk about what other people have done.' 

During the 22 minute interview Wednesday night, Colbert specifically asked him about The Washington Post story, where the newspaper tracked down the players in the dramatic chronicle and determined that the former vice president got the soldier's rank and military branch wrong, along with the type of medal involved, the location and timeframe of the crucial moment, and the act of bravery that he was rewarding.

'They said that the branch of the military was wrong,' the late night comedian said. 'And that the date was wrong. And the act it was awarded for was wrong. And the medal was wrong.'

Joe Biden arrives at 'The Late Show' studios in New York on Wednesday night

Joe Biden argued he doesn't make mistakes when talking about substantive issues

The crowd laughed as Colbert pressed: 'You said details don't matter'

'I was not talking about me. I was praising what the valor of all these people out there that I visited in over 20 visits in Afghanistan and Iraq,' Biden responded. 'And I've watched these people, and I've watched what they've done. And I was pointing out the young man who I did pin the medal on in Wardak province — he didn't want the medal because his buddy had been killed as he was being dragged out of a burning Humvee. He said, 'Don't pin it on me.' '

He added: 'Look, it's a different thing to say when you're talking about honoring the bravery or the sacrifice or what other people went through. And the essence of it is absolutely true.' 

'The fact that I said that I was vice president — well, in one case I was vice president-elect. The other case, I was a senator,' Biden noted. 'I'm not sure that's relevant but I don't, you know, I don't get wrong things like, you know, there is — we should lock kids up in cages at the border.'

Colbert also asked the former vice president about his recent comment he made to NPR, saying that 'details are irrelevant,' Biden responded, 'Those details are irrelevant. The point I was making is absolutely accurate.'

'But some details are relevant — that's where the devil is, is in the details,' Colbert said.

'The devil lives in the details if the details that you're talking about would affect the outcome of something that's about to happen, or should happen,' Biden answered. 'And the idea that, you know, I made the case that these folks are heroes and we should treat them as that, and we should be thankful to them.'

Biden had recounted to a crowd in New Hampshire that during his time as vice president he traveled to Kunar Province in Afghanistan, to award a combat medal to a U.S. Navy captain who had rappelled 60 feet down a treacherous cliff to retrieve a fallen comrade's body.

Poised to pin a silver star on the serviceman's uniform, in Biden's version, he stopped when the sailor told him he didn't deserve it.

'He said, 'Sir, I don't want the damn thing!',' he said last Friday. ''Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!''

Biden added: 'That is God's truth, my word as a Biden.' It was false. 

The key elements of the story were a Navy captain getting the silver star from Biden in Kunar province for an act of bravery involving rappelling.

Biden visited Afghanistan's Kunar province in 2008, when he was still a U.S. senator, and was there when Major General David Rodriguez bestowed a bronze star on an Army enlisted man - Specialist Milez Foltz.

That is the only medal ceremony in Kunar province which comports with his telling.

But then in 2011, Biden went to Wardak province - where he did bestow a bronze star on a reluctant hero. 

Biden pinned the Bronze Star Medal for Valor on U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Chad Workman at Forward Operating Base Airborne in eastern Afghanistan, on Jan. 11, 2011

In Afghanistan: Joe Biden (third from right) was in Kunar Province in 2008, not 2011, and saw a medal ceremony - he did not pin on the medal himself. Also present were then senator Chuck Hagel (left) and John Kerry (right) and (second left) Major General David Rodriguez, who gave the bronze star to an enlisted soldier, not a Navy captain

The cliff-rappelled in Biden's story wasn't a Navy captain; it was Army Sgt. Kyle J. White, who received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in 2014

The recipient, Staff Sgt. Chad Workman, apparently did protest that his bravery wasn't worthy of recognition. He had run into a burning vehicle to save a friend's life, only to discover that his body was already 'melting.' 

'I tried to get out of going' to the medal presentation, he told the Post. 

But Workman did not rappel at all, did not receive the silver star and was not in the Navy, and was enlisted, not an Army captain.

In fact the Pentagon has no record of any Army captain receiving a Silver Star during the period of time covered by Biden's anecdote. 

The daring cliffside descent in Biden's campaign story was that of another man, Army Ranger Kyle J. White, according to the Post. 

He got his medal at the White House years later – a Medal of Honor – from President Barack Obama.

That means Biden conflated at least three stories which took place over six years and threw in a change of branch and moved the hero from being enlisted to being commissioned. 

Challenged on it after the Washington Post published its analysis, he told its columnist Jonathan Capehart: ''I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we've lost.

'I don't know what the problem is. What is it that I said wrong?'




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