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Joe Biden has a reputation for stretching the truth. But this story is too crazy to be fake.
Just days after Biden was criticized for making up nearly all the details of a story in which he awarded a medal to a wounded soldier, 2017 video surfaced of the former Vice President speaking in his old hometown of Wilmington, Delaware when he began talking about the time he nearly got into a fight with a black gang leader named “Cornpop.”
Biden was speaking at the site of what used to be a predominately black public pool, where he worked as a lifeguard in the summer of 1962.
“This was the diving board area,” said Biden, pointing off to his right, “And I was one of the guards, and they weren’t allowed to — it was a 3-meter board. And if you fell off sideways, you landed on the damn, er, darn cement over there,” Biden said, correcting himself after cursing while surrounded by kids.
Then, things got weird as Biden began to claim he nearly got into a fight with the leader of a gang called “The Romans,” a man named “Cornpop.”
“And Cornpop was a bad dude. And he ran a bunch of bad boys. And back in those days — to show how things have changed — one of the things you had to use, if you used Pomade in your hair, you had to wear a baby cap. And so he was up on the board and wouldn’t listen to me. I said, ‘Hey, Esther, you! Off the board, or I’ll come up and drag you off,'” said Biden.
Esther Williams was a famous actress and synchronized swimmer.
Biden says Cornpop then threatened him. “Well, he came off, and he said, ‘I’ll meet you outside,'” said Biden.
Biden then said the pool’s maintenance man called him into a shed, where he gave Biden a length of metal chain and told him to confront Cornpop in the parking lot.
“So I walked out with the chain,” said Biden. ‘And I walked up to my car. And in those days, you remember the straight razors, you had to bang ’em on the curb, gettin’ em rusty, puttin’ em in the rain barrel, gettin’ em rusty? And I looked at him, but I was smart, then. I said, ‘First of all,’ I said, ‘when I tell you to get off the board, you get off the board, and I’ll kick you out again, but I shouldn’t have called you Esther Williams, and I apologize for that. I apologize.’ But I didn’t know that apology was gonna work.”
The tale sounds a lot like one told by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker about a supposed friend and Newark gang member named “T-Bone,” who only Booker has heard of. The tale of Joe Biden nearly getting into a chain fight with a gang leader named “Cornpop” sounds too insane to be true.
But the weird thing is, it appears to be entirely true.
While the idea of gang called “The Romans” led by a man named “Cornpop” may sound so silly it has to be made up, an old Delaware News Journal on the history of gang activity in Wilmington reports one of the gangs operating in the 1960s was known as “The Romans.”
CNN fact checker Daniel Dale reports former Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams also confirms “Cornpop” was real. Williams says he grew up in the same housing project as Cornpop, and says he was confrontational as a youth.
Dale also found a 2010 article from The Root on Biden’s history with black voters, in which several Wilmington residents tell the same story as Biden about a confrontation with Cornpop and The Romans.
After recounting the story with the same details Biden gave, author Chana Garcia writes:
My dad, a retired federal parole officer, and his friends, many of whom hung out at the city pool back in the day, regularly rattle off stories about “Joe.” They’d likely seen him at a community event when he was still a senator. Several of them attended fundraisers at his house or called his office to air grievances. But the Corn Pop run-in, which the vice president also recounts in his autobiography, Promises to Keep, is the one story they keep in heavy rotation.
While none of the stories gives Cornpop’s true name, Dale found a December 2016 obituary for a 73-year-old Wilmington man listed as “William L. Morris (Cornpop).” Morris would have been 19 in 1962.
Could it be that Joe Biden is so crazy he doesn’t need to make up a story this bizarre?