Fact Check

Does Joe Biden Have a Speech Impediment?

"God’s gift to me was my stuttering,” Biden once said.

Published Feb. 7, 2021

Updated March 7, 2024
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06:  Vice President of the United States Joe Biden attends the 10th Annual American Institute For Stuttering Freeing Voices Changing Lives Gala at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers on June 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Pont/WireImage) (Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images)
Image Via Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images
U.S. President Joe Biden has a speech impediment.

As discussion over the age and mental acuity of both U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump became more heated in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election, assertions about the incumbent president's history of stuttering have increasingly been made by pundits — often as a defense of alleged verbal gaffes. On March 4, 2024, for example, a pro-Biden account on X (formerly Twitter) shared a clip of a Fox News interview in which the point was raised in defense of Biden:


It is true that Biden has struggled with stuttering, to various degrees, for his entire life. Stuttering is a speech impediment and neurological disorder that may involve "repetitions (D-d-d-dog), prolongations (Mmmmmmilk), or blocks (an absence of sound)," according to the nonprofit National Stuttering Association.

This impediment is a condition with a genetic component to it, and Biden's uncle stuttered his whole life, according to a January 2020 feature in The Atlantic. As a child, according to that article, Joe Biden largely taught himself how to deal with his stutter:

After trying and failing at speech therapy in kinder­garten, Biden waged a personal war on his stutter in his bedroom as a young teen. He'd hold a flashlight to his face in front of his bedroom mirror and recite Yeats and Emerson with attention to rhythm, searching for that elusive control. He still knows the lines by heart: "Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books."

In a February 2020 CNN town hall, Biden disclosed the impediment still affects him from time to time "when I find myself really tired." He told the audience that the condition "has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient [and] has nothing to do with your intellectual makeup."

At a New Hampshire campaign stop a few days earlier, Biden showed Brayden Harrington, a 12-year-old boy with a stutter, a printout of a speech he had just given which marked places "where Biden could take breaks between words." The gesture helped to normalize the condition, the boy's father told CNN. Harrington later delivered a speech to the Democratic National Convention.

There are witnesses who attest to Biden's childhood stutter. As documented in Jules Witcover's 2010 biography, "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption," several neighborhood friends recall Biden's stutter during his youth. Jimmy Kennedy, for example, lived across the street from Biden as a child, and recalled hearing him stutter the first time the two met:

Another young Green Ridge neighbor, Jimmy Kennedy, a few years older than the others, lived across Dimmick Avenue, a dirt alley separating the backyards of the Biden and Kennedy homes. The first time he laid eyes on Joey [Biden], he remembered long afterward, this scrawny kid in short pants with a distinct stutter called across the alley and defiantly challenged him: "You ca-ca-can't catch me." Kennedy couldn't, and Joey with his speed, shiftiness, and toughness played himself into tackle football games with the older boys.

Contrary to claims that Biden invented the stutter backstory for the 2020 election, Biden had, in fact, discussed it publicly well before 2020. A 1986 Washington Post editorial, for example, made note of both then-Senator Biden's stutter and his propensity for gaffes:

Up through his teen years, Biden had a stutter, and he says that one of the most difficult things he did in high school was to stand up and deliver a graduation speech. Now he almost seems to overcompensate, to speak and say things when he'd do better to be quiet.

Because there are eyewitness accounts of Biden stuttering as a child and Biden has openly discussed his stutter several times, the claim that Biden has a speech impediment is "True."


Bradner, Kate Sullivan, Eric. "Biden Opens up about Stuttering and Offers Advice to Young People Who Stutter | CNN Politics." CNN, 6 Feb. 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/05/politics/joe-biden-stutter/index.html.

Hendrickson, John. "What Joe Biden Can't Bring Himself to Say." The Atlantic, 21 Nov. 2019. The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/joe-biden-stutter-profile/602401/.

Levenson, Michael. "A Boy Who Bonded With Biden Over Stuttering Will Write a Children's Book." The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/books/brayden-harrington-stutter-book.html.

"President Joe Biden." Stuttering Foundation: A Nonprofit Organization Helping Those Who Stutter, 13 May 2015, https://www.stutteringhelp.org/content/president-joe-biden.

"Stuttering Explained." National Stuttering Association, https://westutter.org/what-is-stuttering/. Accessed 7 Mar. 2024.

"Joe Biden: The Last of the Silver-Tongued Democrats." The Charlotte Observer, 1 Oct. 1987, p. 19. newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-charlotte-observer-joe-biden-the-la/142880234/.

Witcover, Jules. Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption. Harper Collins, 2010.


March 7, 2024: This fact check was updated with more biographical material.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.