How bad has Joe Biden’s fabulism become? He’s now getting assigned Pinocchios by his own White House comms teams. Yesterday, reporters pressed Biden to explain Joe Manchin’s surprise announcement of opposition to his Build Back Better bill while the White House claimed negotiations were continuing. Biden expressed confidence that he and Manchin could still cut a deal together, but then claimed that Manchin had admitted to at least one House Democrat that he had “misled” Biden:
BIDEN: You know, I told you before, you heard me say this before. Some people think maybe I’m not Irish based on holding a grudge. Look, I want to get things done. I still think there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done. What I don’t want is to get into it, and Joe went on TV today and — uh, not on TV or not. I’m told he was speaking to a liberal caucus in the House and said, “Joe Biden didn’t mislead you, I misled him.”
As soon as the words came out of Biden’s mouth, the accusation lit up social media. And almost as quickly, everyone came to the same conclusion — that this was yet another of Biden’s long string of self-justifying lies. This time, the White House rushed to play Clean Up on Aisle 46:
After Biden said today that Manchin “was speaking to a liberal caucus in the House and said ‘Joe Biden didn’t mislead you, I misled you,'” the White House follows up: “The President wanted to clarify that Senator Manchin did not characterize himself as having been ‘misleading.’
— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) December 21, 2021
That’s one hell of a “clarification.” The entire point of that fake anecdote was to get Biden off the hook for bungling matters with Manchin, especially after his staff issued that blistering statement on Sunday afternoon. It’s a blame-shifting exercise using a lie to accomplish it by claiming Manchin conceded that he misled people at all — which would truly be amazing for someone who has been crystal clear on his red lines: an honest 10-year accounting for costs, a top line under $2 trillion, and a full pay-for without tax breaks for the wealthy.
Why correct their own boss, though? Clearly, they want to head off another crisis with Joe Manchin, who’s getting a full-press courtship from Mitch McConnell this week. If Manchin got aggravated by the White House statement on Sunday, he might have blown his top entirely after hearing Biden lie about what he told other Democrats, let alone accuse him of misleading people in the negotiations over BBB.
It’s not as if the fact-check industry would have questioned Biden’s claim. With the exception of Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler (in 2020 for similar claims), none of the professionals of this guild have thus far bothered to even look at Biden’s absurd claim last week to have spent his young adulthood having “desegregated restaurants and movie theaters” during the Civil Rights movement. Not PolitiFact. Not FactCheck.org. Not Snopes either. It has been largely memory-holed as I predicted it would be, the same way most of Biden’s self-serving and bald-faced lies are, and the opposite of how the fact-check guild obsessed over Donald Trump’s self-serving presidential lies for four years.
Of course, this particular lie had some serious potential for blowback even without media interest. Manchin matters a lot more than Snopes for Democrats’ legislative ambitions, which is what prompted such a quick and embarrassing reversal from the White House. Too bad the national media isn’t providing the kind of scrutiny on Biden that would produce this level of accountability.
Update: Originally I wrote that Biden claimed Manchin admitted misleading him to Senate Democrats. Biden actually said House “caucus,” which is indeterminate on number (and the other chamber, of course). I’ve corrected it above.
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