Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, already under fire for incorporating into his own speeches without attribution long, dramatic passages from a campaign speech by a British political leader, has also misrepresented his source for the passages.
In at least one campaign appearance, Biden, seeking to establish his foreign affairs credentials, said he was friendly with many of the world’s heads of state and that “a leader of another country” had given him a tape of the commercial in which the passages appeared.
In fact, Biden has since said he was given the tape by William Schneider, a Washington political commentator and a political analyst for The Times. Schneider also handed out copies of the same tape to other presidential candidates and members of the media.
The latest questions over Biden’s candor arose Tuesday when his campaign staffers produced a videotape of a Biden speech given on Aug. 14 in Sioux City, Iowa. They offered it as proof that Biden has credited Neil Kinnock, the British Labor Party leader, while borrowing extensively from Kinnock’s rhetoric. Biden was criticized in recent days for failing to credit Kinnock during a speech at a presidential debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23.
The videotape of the Aug. 14 speech showed that Biden did credit Kinnock.
But Biden prefaced his comments by saying he was the best qualified of any of the candidates because of his extensive experience in foreign policy as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“For 15 years, I’ve had an opportunity to get to meet and get acquainted with literally every world leader,” Biden said.
“And one of the things that has occurred, as a consequence of that, is that I’ve made friends with leaders in other countries. And one of those leaders in another country sent me a tape not too long ago--about 10 days ago--of an advertisement done by the candidate for prime minister of England for the Labor Party, a fellow named Kinnock, who was defeated, but he (the foreign leader) wanted me to see the tape.”
Tape Linked to Schneider
In a telephone interview with The Times last weekend, Biden acknowledged that it was Schneider who had given him the tape.
Biden, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was presiding over the Senate hearings on the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court and could not be reached for comment Tuesday, a spokesman for his campaign said.
Biden has defended his unattributed use of the Kinnock passages and has insisted that he neglected to credit Kinnock only once, during the Democratic debate at the Iowa State Fair.
Yet three days later, in an Aug. 26 interview taped by the National Education Assn., Biden again failed to credit Kinnock.
Biden, in the NEA tape, said: “I was thinking to myself why was it that I was first person, the first Biden to in probably a thousand generations to get to go university and to law school. . . . Was it because our mothers and fathers were not as smart as we were?” In one passage, Kinnock asked: “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university. . . . Was it because our predecessors were so thick?”
Biden staffers could not explain why Biden said in Sioux City that he had received the Kinnock tape from a foreign leader. But they stressed that the speeches of other candidates might not stand up to the same intense analysis either.
Campaign Aide’s View
Eric Woolson, a spokesman for the Biden campaign in Iowa, said: “I think to suggest that no other candidate has used the statements of another politician in their speeches strains credulity.”
Still, the revelations are at least embarrassing for a candidate who has built his political reputation in large part on his skills as an orator, and who has consciously sought to define his vision of a Biden presidency as one in which he would use his rhetorical powers to inspire and lead.
Meanwhile, Biden campaign officials acknowledged Tuesday that during a California campaign stop earlier this year, Biden also copied sections of old speeches made by Robert F. Kennedy without publicly crediting Kennedy.
They confirmed a report in the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday that, in addressing the state convention of the California Democratic Party in February, Biden quoted or closely paraphrased speeches Kennedy made in the 1960s without crediting Kennedy.