US President Joe Biden made a strange assessment of his intelligence at a White House event celebrating black Americans on Monday, while praising his administration for a series of historic first African-Americans in high office.
“I may be a white boy, but I’m not stupid. I know where the power is … You think I’m joking. I learned a long time ago about the Divine Nine,” Biden said at the event marking the end of Black History Month.
Though Biden has been criticized for tall tales before – from claiming in 2022 that he had been arrested at a civil rights protest, or the oft-debunked story about visiting the South African dissident Nelson Mandela – his cryptic remark about power may be accurate, in context.
The “Divine Nine” is a nickname given to the society founded in 1930 that represents fraternities and sororities at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden argued he “started out of an HBCU, Delaware State.”
Many understood that as a claim he attended an African-American school, which he did not. Media fact-checkers then dug up a speech of his in 2016 in which Biden said he spoke at Delaware State when he first entered politics, fundraising on its campus, before becoming a senator from Delaware in 1972.
In his remarks on Monday, Biden credited Congressman James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, for endorsing him in 2020. That victory in the party primaries quickly led to other Democrats falling in line and Biden becoming the presidential nominee in a previously crowded field.
According to multiple US media outlets, Clyburn’s price was to have Biden nominate an African-American woman as his running mate and to the US Supreme Court – which he did, first with Kamala Harris and then with Ketanji Brown-Jackson.