Fact check: Ad takes Joe Biden quote out of context

An advert against Joe Biden gaining traction on Facebook misleadingly claims the Democratic Presidential candidate made racist comments on camera in 1985. The alleged quote, which has been repeatedly used to discredit Biden, is missing context.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak about modernizing infrastructure and his plans for tackling climate change during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Some of the iterations of the seven second ad, whose title and copy vary, are visible here , here , here and here

The videos are sponsored by the Committee to Defend the President, an organization which describes itself as “defending President Trump and his ‘America First’ agenda – and supporting those who enact it.” ( here ) The videos carry a disclaimer at the end reading: “Paid for by the Committee to Defend the President which is responsible for the content of this message. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”


Two seconds into the video, the narrator says that Biden “repeated the N-word twice on camera,” while on-screen text reads, “We don’t need any more [N-word] bigshots” – C-SPAN 6/5/1985”

As presented, the video implies that the words spoken by Biden were his own opinions, when actually he was quoting a white legislator and trying to expose the comments as racist.

It is not the first time that this quote is taken out of context to criticize Biden ( here ). Reuters Fact Check recently debunked a misleading compilation of Biden footage that included this clip, visible here

The alleged quote was part of a confidential staff memorandum that Biden referenced on several occasions ( ) at William Reynolds’ nomination for becoming Associate Attorney General on June 4 and June 5, 1985. Moments captured on camera of Biden mentioning the quote are visible here ( , minute 1:29:15) and here ( , minute 17:14).

During the two-day hearing, Biden quoted these words from a white legislator who opposed the Louisiana redistricting plan in 1981, a case that was criticized for being biased against Black people. Biden mentioned the case to argue against Reynolds’s nomination ( here ).


The narration in the video claims Biden “praised KKK members”, while on-screen text reads “Praised KKK member Robert Byrd - BBC 07/03/10”.

The video presumably refers to a BBC report published on July 3, 2010, visible about Robert Byrd’s memorial service, an event that was attended by then-President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton, among other political figures. The BBC article mentions that “Mr Clinton and Mr Biden both spoke in praise of Mr Byrd's dedication to serving the people who elected him,” but includes no direct quotation of Biden’s speech.

During his speech visible here ( , see minute 1:43:20), Biden described Byrd to be “fiercely devoted” to his principles and that he stood up “for the people he proudly was part of” and for the constitution he revered.

Senator Robert Byrd was a former member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and expressed regret about it later in his life. In a 2005 interview, Byrd said “I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times … and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.” (Read more  here )

A Reuters Fact Check going into more detail into Byrd’s history is visible here .


A breakdown of The Committee To Defend the President’s Facebook Ad activity is visible here . The dashboard includes the video in these claims.


Misleading. Ad against Joe Biden features a quote taken out of context.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .