Conservative Blogs Falsely Accuse Biden Of Lying About Playing College Football

Right-wing bloggers are falsely claiming that Joe Biden is “lying” about having played football at the University of Delaware. Contrary to their claims, several newspapers have interviewed people who knew Biden while he played freshman football at Delaware.

Gateway Pundit, National Review Online, and the Daily Caller picked up a post from Breitbart and claimed that it was evidence that Biden didn't play football at Delaware and is “lying” about it.

More than 20 years of reporting debunks this claim. For instance, a 1987 Washington Post article retrieved from the Nexis database quoted Biden's father, Joe Biden Sr., saying that he made his son leave the team because of poor grades after his freshman season. A 1987 Los Angeles Times article reported that Biden's college roommate said the same thing (via Nexis):

“He probably never studied as hard as other people did,” recalled Biden's roommate at the University of Delaware, Donald Brunner, now a senior vice president with J. P. Morgan. Brunner and Biden both played football as freshmen, but Biden then quit the team, Brunner said, under pressure from his father, who thought that he was devoting too much time to sports and not enough to books.

In 2008, The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, published an article about Biden's high school and college football days. One of Biden's teammates at Delaware, Jack Istnick, recounted a story from practice (article available for purchase here):

Every now and then, the freshman players would help the varsity practice.

One day, Biden and Jack Istnick were shagging punts for the varsity so it could work on its kick-coverage teams. This was done at full speed with full contact. The ball was kicked to Biden, who got “absolutely leveled,” Istnick said, “mainly because I didn't block anyone.”

“The [freshman] coach, Scottie Duncan, looked at me and looked at Joe lying on the ground and said to me, 'Don't you like him?' ”

The Breitbart post uses an ellipsis-laden quote from a September 8 speech Biden made at Ohio University as evidence that he lied specifically about having played in a football game there in 1963:

“I came ... I was a football player ... I came here in 1963 ... and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12,” Biden said.  

However, a CBS News video of Biden's appearance, used by NRO, shows that Biden did not actually claim to have played in the game.

BIDEN: Well, I want to tell you, I came -- I was a football pl-- I came -- I came here in 1963. And I had to go back -- I just double-checked my memory. You know, you get my age, you're not so sure [unintelligible]. You know, your glory days look more glorious than they really were and all that.

So, we went back on the Internet, and I just want you to know I came here in -- on October 19, 1963, and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12. Now, wait a minute, now, wait a minute. And that's why I was so happy, I was so happy that when the Bobcats went to Happy Valley, they learned what a bobcat was. Because now, I've got bragging rights. Y'all beat Penn State, and so I can say, “Well, they beat Penn State, and 500 years ago, we beat them once.”

[video break]

BIDEN: The last time I was here, I want to make clear to the press, I didn't get arrested, but I almost did. Because back in those days -- you students won't appreciate this -- men weren't allowed anywhere near a woman's dorm. And I got invited into a dorm. I thought I was walking into the -- into the -- into the waiting room. I got brought into the hallway. And I got escorted out very quickly by an Athens policeman. But -- so -- true story, unfortunately.