Listicle

8 Times Biden Has Been a 'Gaffe Machine'

We've constantly fact-checked claims about whether Biden misspoke in a speech or remark during his presidency.

Published Feb. 16, 2024

 (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Image Via Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

In February 2024, special counsel Robert Hur released a report on his investigation into U.S. President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents that described the president as an "elderly man with a poor memory." The release of the report highlighted an issue that has come under increasing scrutiny in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election. In a NBC News poll released on Feb. 6, 2024, 76% of American voters (including 54% of Democrats) said they had major or moderate concerns about Biden "not having the necessary mental or physical health to be president for a second term." 

In part, these concerns involved verbal gaffes Biden made around the time the report was released. But questions about Biden's tendency to misspeak have swirled for a long time. After all, Biden himself said in December 2018 that he was a "gaffe machine" while speaking in Montana during a stop for his book tour. We've constantly fact-checked claims that Biden muffed his words or uttered falsehoods in speeches over the course of his political career.

Here are some of those fact checks:

1
Did Biden Say 'We Choose Truth Over Facts'?

On an Aug. 8, 2019, presidential campaign stop at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden uttered a baffling sentence: "We choose truth over facts." He flubbed a line he often repeated during campaign speeches, "We choose truth over lies" (fact-check).


2
Did Biden Say 'I Came Into the US Senate 120 Years Ago'?

In March 2021, Biden answered questions during his first news conference at the White House. During the Q&A, he said that he became a U.S. senator "120 years ago." It was unclear if he misspoke or was simply making a joke (fact-check).


3
Did Biden Call Putin 'President Trump' and then Correct Himself?

In June 2021, Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office. Within the first 10 minutes of the event, he indeed referred to Putin as "President Trump," then immediately corrected his mistake. Biden correctly referred to the Russian president throughout the rest of his comments to reporters (fact-check).


4
Did Biden Say There Are Plans To Build a New Railroad Across the Indian Ocean?

When Biden delivered remarks at the League of Conservation Voters' annual capitol dinner on June 14, 2023, he said there were plans to build a railroad across the Indian Ocean. This was an obvious gaffe; we found he was most likely referring to a proposal to build a rail line in Sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of reaching the Indian Ocean (fact-check).


5
Biden Once Said Obama Was a Black Man Who Was 'Articulate and Bright and Clean'?

In January 2007, Biden said Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." The comment was audio-recorded by the New York Observer and later confirmed by sources including CNN, the Charlotte Observer, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The claim often reappears on social media, including in October 2023 when we first investigated it (fact-check).


6
Biden Called Trump the 'Sitting President' During January 2024 Speech?

In late January 2024, Biden wrongly referred to Trump as the "sitting president" in a speech made in South Carolina that month. At the time, Trump had not been the sitting president for more than three years (fact-check).


7
Did Biden Say He Met with Dead French President Francois Mitterrand?

A few weeks after Biden referred to former President Donald Trump as the "sitting president," another presidential mix-up occurred. In February 2024, he said that he spoke in 2021 with former French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996. He meant Emmanuel Macron, the current president of France at the time of this writing (fact-check).


8
Did Biden Refer to Egypt’s President as 'the President of Mexico’?

Only days after Biden said he had met with deceased former French President Francois Mitterrand, he mixed up two world leaders yet again. This time, Biden confused the president of Egypt with the president of Mexico during a surprise news conference meant to defend himself against those questioning his mental acuity (fact-check).


Sources

Murray, Mark. "Biden's Age and Fitness Top the List of Voters' Concerns, Poll Finds." NBC News, 6 Feb. 2024, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2024-election/bidens-age-fitness-top-list-voters-concerns-poll-finds-rcna137212.

Saenz, Arlette. "Joe Biden Believes He Is the 'Most Qualified Person in the Country to Be President' | CNN Politics." CNN, 4 Dec. 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/04/politics/joe-biden-most-qualified-person-president-2020/index.html.

Sink, Justin. "DOJ Report Cites Biden's 'Poor Memory,' Intensifying Age Concerns." Bloomberg, 8 Feb. 2024. www.bloomberg.com, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-02-08/biden-age-woes-intensify-with-doj-report-citing-poor-memory.

Syal, Akshay & Ghael Fobes. "As Biden's Memory Issues Draw Attention, Neurologists Weigh In." NBC News, 10 Feb. 2024, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/bidens-memory-issues-draw-attention-neurologists-weigh-rcna138135.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.