Fact Check: Biden Once Called Obama a Black Man Who Was 'Articulate and Bright and Clean'?

An old statement circulated with Joe Biden
JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images


In January 2007, then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden said of fellow Sen. Barack Obama, "I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."


Rating: Correct Attribution
Rating: Correct Attribution

A statement attributed to U.S. President Joe Biden that appears on X every so often is something that he supposedly said many years before he became president, referencing then-Sen. Barack Obama.

According to multiple posts on X, Biden said of Obama that he was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

These words were indeed spoken by Biden, around 13 years before he was elected to the presidency.

On Jan. 31, 2007, then-U.S. Sen. Biden filed paperwork to launch his campaign for president. On the same day, in remarks made that were audio-recorded by the New York Observer, Biden said of his fellow Democratic candidate, Obama, "I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream African-American." An unidentified reporter responded, "Yeah." Biden continued, "... who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."

The audio of Biden's remark was played on multiple newscasts, including in this clip that appeared to originate from NBC News:

According to CNN.com, Obama issued a written statement later on the same day in response to Biden's comment:

I didn't take Sen. Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.

Three days later, the Charlotte Observer reported the following of the quote, also including the same four names mentioned by Obama:

In addition to sounding like a guy who's been ingesting too much caffeine, Sen. Biden managed in one sentence to imply that Carol Moseley Braun, Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton – earlier Black presidential aspirants – were inarticulate, dim and dirty.

In 2010, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow replayed the sound of Biden's remark on "The Rachel Maddow Show." She also presented another gaffe in which Biden had once said, "You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

The GOP War Room YouTube channel posted more of the comments that preceded Biden's "Indian accent" remark:


“Articulate, Bright and Clean?” Charlotte Observer, Feb. 3, 2007, p. A8, www.newspapers.com/image/645922896/.

“Biden’s Description of Obama Draws Scrutiny.” CNN.com, Feb. 9, 2007, https://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/31/biden.obama/.

“FLASHBACK: Biden: ‘Cannot Go To A 7-Eleven Or Dunkin’ Donuts Unless You Have A Slight Indian Accent.’” YouTube, GOP War Room, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwqkpwV8j_A.

Gregory, David. “Sen. Biden Apologizes for Remarks on Obama.” NBC News, Feb. 1, 2007, https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna16911044.

“The Rachel Maddow Show : MSNBC : January 11, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am EST.” Internet Archive TV News Search, Jan. 11, 2010, http://archive.org/details/MSNBC_20100112_040000_The_Rachel_Maddow_Show.

“Top 10 Joe Biden Gaffes.” Time, Mar. 23, 2010, https://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1895156_1894977_1644536,00.html.