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Here's What Biden Said About Satchel Paige

We give you the latest entry in the Biden Gaffes Hall of Fame.

Published Nov 11, 2021

Updated Nov 12, 2021
 (The White House/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via The White House/Wikimedia Commons

On Nov. 11, 2021, in observance of the Veterans Day holiday, U.S. President Joe Biden delivered remarks at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. One particular line in his speech generated controversy, as well as some misrepresentation.

Partisan commentators latched onto the part of the speech where Biden appeared to call mid-20th century legendary Black baseball player Satchel Paige “the great negro at the time."

 

In the speech, Biden was wishing Ambassador Donald Blinken happy birthday, and segued into telling a story about Paige, who first came to fame as pitcher in what were then called the Negro Leagues. Based on the context of his remarks, it appears that Biden was going to describe Paige as “the great pitcher in the Negro Leagues,” but the words that came out of his mouth were "I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro — at the time, pitcher in the Negro Leagues — went on to become a great pitcher in the pros..." 

The full text of his remarks are here, and the full video here. This is an excerpt from the transcription of the speech published by the White House:

I want to welcome all the Cabinet members and honored guests joining us today, including the father of our Secretary of State, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War Two, Ambassador Donald Blinken, whose birthday is today.  Happy Birthday.  (Applause.)  Thank you for your service to our country. 

And I just want to tell you, I know you’re a little younger than I am, but, you know, I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro — at the time, pitcher in the Negro Leagues — went on to become a great pitcher in the pros — in the Major League Baseball after Jackie Robinson.  His name was Satchel Paige. 

And Satchel Paige, on his 47th birthday, pitched a win against Chicago.  (Laughs.)  And all the press went in and said, “Satch, it’s amazing — 47 years old.  No one’s ever, ever pitched a win at age 47.  How do you feel about being 47?”  He said, “Boys, that’s not how I look at it.”  They said, “How do you look at it, Satch?”  He said, “I look at it this way: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” 

I’m 50 years old and the ambassador is 47. 

Ultimately, Biden's fractured anecdote appeared to be aimed at conveying to Blinken that he was only as old as he felt. 

Fox News edited the footage to make it seem as if Biden was referring to Paige as "the great negro," removing the part where he talked about the Negro Leagues. The below clip shows the edit, occurring at the point where Biden's hand disappeared.

While he did indeed utter the words "I’ve adopted the attitude of the great Negro," and said them in that order, the context surrounding that sentence fragment does not support the claim or implication that Biden "called" or "referred to" Satchel Paige as "the great Negro." 


Sources

“Joe Biden Did Not Refer to Satchel Paige as Negro in Speech.” Mediaite, 11 Nov. 2021, https://www.mediaite.com/online/no-joe-biden-did-not-refer-to-satchel-paige-as-a-negro-during-veterans-day-speech/. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

"President Biden Delivers Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery." C-SPAN.Org, 11 Nov. 2021. https://www.c-span.org/video/?515983-1/president-biden-delivers-remarks-arlington-national-cemetery&live. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

“Remarks by President Biden at the National Veterans Day Observance.” The White House, 11 Nov. 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/11/11/remarks-by-president-biden-at-the-national-veterans-day-observance/. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

“Satchel Paige.” Baseball Hall of Fame, https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/paige-satchel. Accessed 11 Nov. 2021.

Updates

12 Nov. 2021: Added edited clip from Fox News.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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