One of the central claims Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has made about his ties to the civil rights movement is coming under close scrutiny. Biden's consistent assertion that he regularly attended a black church in Wilmington, Delaware, where he participated in civil rights training sessions, is now being contested by people who were there.
Several members of Union Baptist Church have said they have no memory of ever seeing Biden as a teenager at their church. Further, they say that the former vice president only met the church's pastor, Otis Herring, once he was into his adulthood.
Biden has repeatedly said his involvement at Union was formative and significant.
"When I was a teenager in Delaware, for real, I got involved in the civil rights movement," Biden said last January at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in South Carolina. "I'd go to 8 o'clock Mass, then I'd go to Reverend Herring's church where we'd meet in order to organize and figure where we were going to go, whether we were going to desegregate the Rialto movie theater or what we were going to do. I got my education, for real, in the black church, and that's not hyperbole, it's a fact."
Herring's assistant Phyllis Drummond, who has been a mainstay at Union Baptist for decades, flatly rejected the idea that Biden ever attended the church.
"No," she said, "not at our building."
Biden's claim to have been involved with the church as a junior in high school also contradicts a different statement he made previously that he "didn't know any black people" before working at the largely black public pool in Wilmington in 1962, a year out of high school.