This is a direct, unedited excerpt from the White House transcript of “Remarks by President Biden in Virtual Call for the Jewish High Holidays,” which were delivered via teleconferencing at 2:03 PM EDT, Thursday, September 2, 2021:
Biden: “I remember spending time at the — you know, going to the — you know, the Tree of Life Synagogue, speaking with the — just — it just is amazing these things are happening — happening in America. And I guess the point I want to make is that it just shows that if we walk away from ‘never again,’ it’s going to happen again. It can’t happen again.”
Here’s Joe Biden talking about visiting Tree of Life synagogue after the massacre there. The executive director of the synagogue says Biden is lying — he never visited. Totally normal. pic.twitter.com/GcFjU2u50i
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) September 2, 2021
Except that according to Barb Feige, executive director of the Tree of Life, it didn’t ever happen – the Biden visit to the synagogue, that is. Feige told the NY Post shortly after Biden’s speech (Tree of Life synagogue disputes Biden’s claim he visited after massacre) that Biden didn’t visit her synagogue, not right after the massacre of October 27, 2018, when a shooter killed eleven people and wounded six, and not any other time, including his presidential campaign.
The Republican Jewish Coalition suggested Biden “flat out lied about visiting” the Tree of Life synagogue, and scored on the rebound, stating, “The ultimate irony: the person who actually did visit in 2018 with members of the Jewish community? His predecessor.”
President Donald Trump did visit the Tree of Life synagogue, three days after the attack, accompanied by the Jewish members of his administration, including his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was on hand as well. They met with Tree of Life spiritual leader Jeffrey Myers and Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. Trump lit candles for the victims, then visited the wounded at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
At the time, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto said Trump should not have come, since the wounds in the community were still raw. Of course, the mayor said nothing about Joe Biden’s visit, probably because it never happened.
Greg Ganske, a former Congressman from Iowa, wrote in the Des Moines Register on August 15 (Joe Biden isn’t the person I knew in Congress. He should get cognitive testing, with the result made public): “It pains me greatly to see a decline in President Biden, and it worries me. He was 54 years old then and is 78 years old now. People age differently. My own mother is 93 and still sharp, but younger friends have significant mental deterioration.”
Dr. Amit Bajaj, associate professor in speech science at Emerson University in Boston, also believes Biden’s increasing lapses of memory are due to a cognitive decline which is to be expected at his age (he will turn 79 in November). “He has a reputation for gaffes. It’s hard to say if it is interlacing with anticipatory anxiety,” Bajaj said. “I think there are several contributing factors. Part of is the speech. Part of it is cognitively where he might be at because he is old. But the relative influence of any one of them is uncertain. It’s probably a mix of both.”
The White House transcript also contains proof that Joe Biden has retained his sense of humor. Without further ado:
Biden: “As Rabbi Beals will tell you, my — my daughter married a Jewish young man. And — you know, dream of every — every Catholic father that she marry a Jewish doctor. But all kidding aside, he did — he’s a great surgeon. And — and we wanted to have a co-confessional wedding, and everybody said, “What do you mean by that?” The rabbi will tell you, I contacted a friend of mine in Delaware, who’s passed away — she was just an incredible woman — to find me a rabbi who’d come and — and preside in a Catholic Church — the oldest Catholic Church in the state, that I belonged to it, built in 1842. And we had a chuppah on the altar, and we had a co- — it was co-officiated. Now, some of you aren’t going to like this, but it was co-officiated by a Catholic priest as well as a Jewish rabbi.”
Around Biden’s inauguration, I shared with friends that maybe what America needs, after the raucous Trump years, is a grandfather for president. I honestly did not mean a demented one.
The White House confirmed to the NY Post that Biden never visited the synagogue, but rather “was referring to a call he had with the Tree of Life rabbi in 2019,” according to the NY Post. It was confirmed that he did speak with the synagogue’s rabbi in July 2018, when the rabbi was in Dulles Airport waiting for a return flight to Pittsburgh after testifying before Congress.