President Joe Biden is facing criticism for a story he told during the Delaware Veterans Summit and PACT Act Town Hall on Friday, Dec. 16.
Biden claimed that after becoming vice president, he awarded his uncle Frank Biden a Purple Heart for his military service during World War II at his father’s request. The Purple Heart is an award presented to service members who are wounded or killed in action, and can be awarded posthumously.
Here’s an excerpt of Biden’s comments during the event:
“You know, I — my dad, when I got elected Vice President, he said, ‘Joey, Uncle Frank fought in the Battle of the Bulge.’ He was not feeling very well now — not because of the Battle of the Bulge. But he said, ‘And he won the Purple Heart. And he never received it. He never — he never got it. Do you think you could help him get it? We’ll surprise him.’
So we got him the Purple Heart. He had won it in the Battle of the Bulge. And I remember he came over to the house, and I came out, and he said, ‘Present it to him, okay?’ We had the family there.
I said, ‘Uncle Frank, you won this. And I want to…’ He said, ‘I don’t want the damn thing.’ No, I’m serious. He said, ‘I don’t want it.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter, Uncle Frank? You earned it.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but the others died. The others died. I lived. I don’t want it.’”
Some people online have since claimed Biden’s comments are false, since his uncle died well before Biden was elected vice president. Several VERIFY readers also asked the team about the validity of Biden’s story.
Did Joe Biden award his uncle a Purple Heart after becoming vice president?
- Obituary for Frank H. Biden
- The National Cemetery Administration
- Obituary for Joseph Robinette Biden, Sr.
- Purple Heart recipient lists available online
No, Joe Biden did not award his uncle a Purple Heart after becoming vice president. Frank Biden died in 1999, nearly a decade before Biden was elected vice president.
WHAT WE FOUND
Biden made several inaccurate statements during the event on Dec. 16. One of those was that he gave his uncle Frank a Purple Heart in person after becoming vice president. But that’s not possible.
An obituary published by The Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania, says Biden’s uncle, Frank H. Biden, died on Nov. 28, 1999. A gravestone shared on Facebook as part of a January 2021 tribute from the National Cemetery Administration, part of the U.S. Department of the Veterans Affairs, also lists the same date of death for Frank H. Biden.
Biden couldn’t have presented the Purple Heart to his uncle Frank after becoming vice president, since he was elected in November 2008 – almost a decade after his uncle’s death.
Frank Biden’s obituary mentions that he was an Army veteran who served in World War II, but it doesn’t include the receipt of a Purple Heart for his service.
Biden also said his dad spoke with him about giving the award to his uncle when he was elected vice president. But that conversation couldn’t have taken place then, either.
Biden’s father, Joseph Biden, Sr., died at 86 years old on Sept. 2, 2002, more than six years before Joe Biden was elected vice president, according to his obituary published by the News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware.
It’s unclear whether Biden’s uncle ever received the Purple Heart. There’s no record online of a Frank Biden receiving the award, though the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor notes that a comprehensive list of recipients doesn’t exist.
The National Cemetery Administration noted in its January 2021 tribute that Frank Biden entered service with the U.S. Army in July 1941 and was discharged in July 1945 at a Virginia hospital. The post does not mention Frank Biden’s receipt of a Purple Heart, nor is it included on his grave marker.
The White House and Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to requests for comment about President Biden’s recent comments.