- Presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has a story he’s repeated a few times about a run-in with a gang leader named “Corn Pop” while he worked as a lifeguard at a black pool in 1962.
- Biden’s story resurfaced on Twitter over the weekend after a sceptical analysis of whether it actually happened tweeted out by TheRoot.com senior writer Michael Harriot went viral.
- After “Corn Pop” trended on Twitter, a CNN reporter found William L. “Corn Pop” Morris’ obituary, proving his existence. He also found a newspaper clipping describing the “Romans” gang Biden name-dropped in his anecdote.
- Parts of the story were also corroborated by the former head of the NAACP
- A video from 2017 circulated of Biden sharing his tale, which involved him facing off against a straight-razor-wielding Corn Pop while Biden armed himself with a length of chain cut from the pool’s deep end.
- The pool in question now bears Biden’s name, as the Joseph R. Biden Aquatic Centre in Wilmington, Delaware.
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Twitter gathered round this weekend for a story from former Vice President Joe Biden about a gang leader named “Corn Pop.” Biden, the Democratic frontrunner candidate for president, has told a story from his days of lifeguarding at a black pool in 1962 multiple times, but it resurfaced on social media after an analysis from TheRoot.com senior writer Michael Harriot went viral.
Harriot claimed the story represents a “jigaboo version” of race “that is almost alien-like,” but so far, fact-checked elements of Biden’s story appear to be true.
Biden recounted the story in his 2007 autobiography and it was published in The Washington Post.
Despite the seemingly fantastical nature of the encounter Biden described, along with the suspicions that reverberated online following questionable elements of other stories he has frequently told, further reporting shows some key details of the story are supported. CNN reporter Daniel Dale found the obituary for Wilmington native William L. “Corn Pop” Morris, along with an article describing “The Romans” gang in the area that Biden mentions in his retelling.
How Biden explains his run-in with Corn Pop, a gang leader in Wilmington, Delaware in 1962
When telling his story, Biden has said that he worked as the only white lifeguard at the Prices Run swimming pool in Brown-Burton Winchester Park in Wilmington, Delaware. The pool has since been renamed the Joseph R. Biden Aquatic Centre – at the dedication ceremony, Biden told the story again, and video of his retelling also circulated on Twitter.
This is BIZARRE!
Here's Joe Biden telling the story of his face-off with a gang of razor-wielding ne'er-do-wells led by a guy named 'Corn Pop.' pic.twitter.com/DddRtWgdza
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) September 15, 2019
At the same pool renaming ceremony, former NAACP President Richard “Mouse” Smith gave his own firsthand account of the incident, since he was apparently there, too. He commented that Biden used some “colourful” language when urging Corn Pop to get off the diving board.
— Eric Columbus (@EricColumbus) September 15, 2019
In some instances, Biden frames his story by explaining that he wanted to work at a black pool “in hopes of learning more about the black community.” Biden also said he was popular among pool-goers, because most of them hadn’t talked to a white person before.
Biden goes on to say that a group of gang members called “The Romans” came to the pool, including the gang leader Corn Pop. Biden says he yelled at Corn Pop to stop bouncing on the diving board, calling him Esther Williams, after the famous 50s female swimmer.
After Biden insulted Corn Pop, the gang leader supposedly said he’d meet the future vice president outside his car when he got off work. Biden says Corn Pop showed up with three guys and straight razors, but that a white mechanic working at the pool cut a six-foot length of chain from the line that separated the deep end for Biden to arm himself with.
In the video from the pool renaming ceremony, Biden also explains that the straight razors wielded by Corn Pop and his fellow gang members were rusty, since that was apparently a common method of street fighting at the time. Biden says he apologised to Corn Pop for calling him Esther Williams but insisted that he couldn’t mess around on the diving board. And that, apparently, made Corn Pop close his razor and decide to be friends with Biden.
The story has apparently become a treasured local legend among Wilmington residents who still call the former vice president “Joe.” Washington Post reporter Robert Samuels detailed his own experience actually interviewing people who recalled the story, the gang, and Biden in his own Twitter thread.
Also, yes, Wilmington was highly segregated in 1962 and many of the black people who I spoke with did in fact say Joe Biden was the first white person they knew who really listened to them and had a heart for them.
— Robert Samuels (@newsbysamuels) September 16, 2019
“This was the bigger point of the story, which harkens today: Joe Biden clearly wanted to get to know and be involved in the lives of black people. Absent of that was an analysis or a willingness to understand the impact of structural and systemic racism,” Samuels wrote on Twitter.
Samuels also pointed out a few inaccuracies, including that Biden wasn’t actually the only white lifeguard at the pool, and the pool itself wasn’t segregated by law.
This story has been updated to reflect new facts and details.
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