President Joe Biden used his one-on-one meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday to reprise a story about an Amtrak conductor who supposedly congratulated him for traveling 2 million miles on the rail service — despite having died before the story purportedly took place.
After Biden noted that Johnson had traveled from New York to Washington, DC on Amtrak for their White House meeting, he proclaimed to Johnson and the assembled media that “I got to tell you a quick story that has nothing to do with anything.”
The president began by recalling that when he was Vice President, “the Secret Service didn’t like me traveling on Amtrak because there were too many options for people to cause trouble along the way. But I insisted I do it.”
“One day,” Biden continued, “they put in the newspaper: ‘Biden travels one million …’ — and I think — don’t hold me to the exact number — I think it was — ‘ … three hundred and fifty thousand miles on Air Force Two.”
When Biden went to get the train home to Delaware that Friday, he continued, he was greeted by “a guy, who was the number three guy from New Jersey in seniority as a conductor, [who] walked up and grabbed me and he goes like this: ‘Joey, baby!’ [and] grabs my cheek. I thought the Secret Service was going to shoot him.”
In a May speech marking the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, Biden told an identical story and identified the conductor as Angelo Negri. He made no such identification in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
“He said, ‘Joey, big deal. 1.3 million miles on Amtrak’ — I mean, on Air Force Two,” the president continued. “‘Do you know how many miles you traveled on Amtrak?’ And I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Well, at the retirement dinner, we worked it out.’ He said, ’36 years in the Senate; X number of years as …’ — at that point — ‘ … as Vice President; average 131 days a year, 257 miles a day. Joey, you travelled over 2 million miles. Big deal.’”
While the story got a laugh from the assembled media, there are issues with its accuracy, which have been pointed out by various fact-checkers.
First, Biden did not say he had crossed the 1.3 million miles-traveled mark as vice president until September 2016. That was more than two years after Negri’s death at the age of 83 in May 2014, 21 years after he had retired from Amtrak as a conductor.
Second, Biden said in the May speech that Negri told him he had traveled 1.5 million miles on Amtrak, not the 2 million miles he claimed on Tuesday.
It’s not clear how often Negri and Biden saw each other after the former’s retirement. The White House told The Post in May that Negri could have attended two events as Biden’s guest while he was VP: The rededication of the Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del. as the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station in 2011 and an event promoting the Obama-era stimulus in 2009 or 2010. In either case, the event would have taken place long before Biden achieved the 1.3-million milestone.
Tuesday was not the first time Biden has been caught in a fib. Earlier this month, the White House admitted that the president did not visit the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the murder of 11 congregants in 2018 — despite Biden claiming that he had done so.
While Biden recalled “spending time at” and “going to” the synagogue, the administration was forced to sheepishly acknowledge that he was actually referring to “a call he had with the Tree of Life rabbi in 2019.”
Last year, Biden claimed he “had the great honor of being arrested” in South Africa in the 1970s when he was “trying to get to see [Nelson Mandela] on Robbens Island,” where Mandela was imprisoned until 1990. He said Mandela later thanked him for it.
Biden later admitted, “I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”
In 2019, Biden’s campaign was forced to amend its plan for tackling climate change after social media users and conservative media outlets pointed out that some of the language appeared to have been borrowed from progressive action groups and media sites.
Biden was also accused of plagiarizing the late Canadian political leader Jack Layton in his nomination acceptance speech at last year’s Democratic National Convention. The following month, Delaware State University denied that Biden had attended classes there after he claimed that he had “got started” at the historically black institution.
Most famously, Biden dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential primary after he admitted to plagiarizing a law school paper and was exposed for lifting lines without credit that had been used by then-British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.