Fact Check

Did White House Announce Biden's IQ is 187?

A post on X said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made the announcement after a morning briefing on Jan. 29, 2024.

Published Jan 30, 2024

U.S. President Joe Biden stops to talk to the press on Jan. 30, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Thomas/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (Andrew Thomas/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden stops to talk to the press on Jan. 30, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Thomas/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Claim:
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced in January 2024 that U.S. President Joe Biden had an IQ of 187.

On Jan. 29, 2024, a user on X posted (archived) that the White House announced U.S. President Joe Biden had taken an aptitude test that found he had an IQ of 187. The news supposedly was shared by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that morning, the post claimed.

"White House claims Joe Biden's IQ is 187," the post read. "Karine Jean-Pierre just finished her Monday morning briefing and said that ⁦the Joe Biden took an 'aptitude test' and got an overwhelming '187 IQ,' making him the smartest president in U.S. history! 187 might be his weight or height?"

Online posts claimed that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that US President Joe Biden scored an IQ of 187 after taking an aptitude test.

Numerous other users on X, in YouTube videos and on former U.S. President Donald Trump's social media platform Truth Social shared the same rumor, all claiming the White House said Biden's IQ was 187.

However, we rate this claim as "False." Jean-Pierre made no such announcement, as was evidenced by both a video of and transcript from the Jan. 29 White House press briefing, which took place in the afternoon, not the morning. Further, an aptitude test is different from an intelligence quotient test and does not result in an IQ score.

According to a search of X, the earliest post (archived) to mention Biden's name with both "IQ" and "187" was posted hours before the more popular post and received far less engagement from users.

As for Biden's real IQ score, it was unclear whether he had ever even taken a test. The same goes for past presidents, as it's not exactly a standard practice for politicians to take such a test.

Snopes reached out to the White House to ask whether Biden had ever taken an IQ test or whether he planned to take one in the future. This story will be updated if a response is received.

Biden's 1987 IQ Remark

On the subject of Biden and IQ scores, in July 1987, the Los Angeles Times reported that Biden "chewed out" and "snapped" at an attendee during a meet-the-candidate gathering in New Hampshire while campaigning ahead of the 1988 U.S. presidential election.

"My question is, what law school did you attend and where did you place in that class?," asked the man, identified as Frank, video of the encounter shows. "Who cares?" another attendee said.

Biden responded at length:

"I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship. The only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. And the first year in law school, I decided I didn't want to be in law school and ended up in the bottom two-thirds of my class, and then decided I wanted to stay, went back to law school and in fact ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits. You only need 123 credits. And I would be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you'd like, Frank."

The Washington Post reported in September 1987 that Biden's claims did not line up with the facts:

In fact, Biden, who has been criticized for using major parts of other politicians' speeches in his own and who was accused of plagiarism in a law school paper in 1965, didn't go to Syracuse Law School on a full academic scholarship, but on a half scholarship based on financial need, nor did he finish in the top half of his class; his ranking was 76th out of 85.

There also is no indication that he won the moot court competition, and such a claim doesn't appear on his resume, Newsweek said. He also didn't win the award given the outstanding political science student at his undergraduate school, the University of Delaware.

And Biden didn't graduate from Delaware with three degrees. He received one, a bachelor's degree in political science and history, his records show.

Biden ended up withdrawing from the 1988 presidential race on Sept. 23, 1987.

Presidential IQ Estimates

In 2006, Dean Simonton, now a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, published an extensive paper of IQ estimates for the first 42 U.S. presidents, titled "Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations for 42 U.S. Chief Executives."

Through a series of detailed and complex criteria, all of which are thoroughly laid out in the paper, Simonton's work showed the highest estimated IQ score of 175 for John Quincy Adams. Dead last on the list was Ulysses S. Grant, with an estimated IQ score of 130. George W. Bush landed just one spot above Grant, with an estimated IQ of 138.5.

Note: Reader's Digest previously reported on Simonton's paper in December 2023.

Sources

“01/29/2024: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby.” YouTube, The White House, 29 Jan. 2024, www.youtube.com/watch?v=mllhFmoYEjs.

“1988 Road to the White House with Sen. Biden.” YouTube, C-SPAN, 1987, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1j0FS0Z6ho.

“Biden Made Tall Claims, Article Says.” Newspapers.com, The Charlotte Observer via The Washington Post, 21 Sept. 1987, https://www.newspapers.com/image/625387830/.

“Biden’s Law School Ranking Not as He Said.” Los Angeles Times, 21 Sept. 1987, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1987-09-21-mn-6104-story.html.

Clifford, Frank. “DEBATE: Face-Offs More Popular.” Newspapers.com, Los Angeles Times, 25 July 1987, https://www.newspapers.com/image/402510529/.

McCusker, Bridget. “The 13 Presidents with the Highest IQ Scores.” Reader’s Digest, 14 Dec. 2023, https://www.rd.com/list/presidents-with-the-highest-iq-scores/.

“Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.” The White House, 29 Jan. 2024, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/01/29/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-nsc-coordinator-for-strategic-communications-john-kirby-43/.

Satija, Neena. “Echoes of Biden’s 1987 Plagiarism Scandal Continue to Reverberate.” Washington Post, 7 June 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/echoes-of-bidens-1987-plagiarism-scandal-continue-to-reverberate/2019/06/05/dbaf3716-7292-11e9-9eb4-0828f5389013_story.html.

Simonton, Dean Keith. Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations for 42 U.S. Chief Executives. International Society of Political Psychology, 2006, https://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jcampbel/documents/SimontonPresIQ2006.pdf.

“Understanding the Difference: IQ Tests vs. Aptitude Tests.” Aptitude-Test.com, 4 Dec. 2023, https://www.aptitude-test.com/blog/articles/iq-vs-aptitude-tests/.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.