False Testimony, Misremembering, Ideological Confusion: A Fact Check on Biden’s HRC Speech
President Joe Biden spoke Saturday at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual National Dinner. Biden said it was his fourth appearance at the annual event, which is billed as “a national gathering for champions of LGBTQ equality.” Although the 80-year-old president rarely makes public appearances before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., he made an exception for his close allies, and he delivered a reasonably coherent address to boot.
As to the truthfulness of Biden’s remarks, the most charitable description is that the spin began before he started speaking and ran through his concluding paragraph. From downright false testimony to invented stories, from ideological falsehoods to absurd non-sequiturs, the president’s speech had it all. Perhaps it would even have been comedic if the stakes weren’t so deadly serious.
President Biden was introduced by his wife, Jill, and the false testimony began with her. But the president added his own false claims.
1. Lies about State Laws
First, the president lied about state legislatures acting to protect women and children from the harmful effects of transgender ideology. He denounced “over 600 hateful laws [bills] introduced,” of which he said “more than 70” became law, “denying the existence of transgender people, silencing teachers, banning books, threatening parents with prison for getting their children healthcare.”
In June, Human Rights Campaign had declared a national state of emergency for “LGBTQ+ people” in the U.S. over this wave of state legislation, and they deliberately mischaracterized the laws in ways quite similar to the president. HRC’s move was a one-time political stunt that meant absolutely nothing, but Biden at least knew how to play to the crowd.
The bills to which Biden referred do things quite different from the things he claimed they do. A law “denying the existence of transgender people,” in Biden’s estimation is any law that defines “sex” in verifiable ways — that is, in biological terms — instead of the nebulous vagueness of self-perceived feelings.
By “silencing teachers,” Biden referenced laws that regulate school classrooms to ensure that material being taught to children in kindergarten through 3rd grade is age-appropriate.
The policies Biden claimed were “banning books” merely removed sexually-inappropriate materials from school libraries, but it did not prohibit private individuals from purchasing said books, which is the traditional understanding of a “book ban.”
Lastly, Biden mentioned laws “threating parents with prison for getting their children health care.” This is a reference to SAFE Act-style bills, which protect minors from the harmful effects of gender transition drugs and surgeries. For starters, these procedures are not health care. Additionally, only five out of 22 (four out of 19 enacted in 2023) state laws carry any criminal penalties. Of those five laws, none targets parents; laws in Florida, North Dakota, and Oklahoma specify the felony penalties are for health care professionals, while Alabama’s and Idaho’s laws carry felony penalties for activities only medical professionals can do.
Biden followed up on these wild accusations by claiming that families with LGBT-identifying children “now face excruciating decision to move to a different state,” making them feel like “refugees inside our nation.” His remark cheapened the plight of millions of actual refugees — even from his beloved Ukraine, not to mention Israel — who have had to flee from their homes because they lived in literal warzones.
Yet, even if we granted, for the sake of argument, the president’s contention that interstate migration provoked by bad governance implied a moral failure on the governing parties, what does that say about California and New York? Their strict COVID lockdowns, soft-on-crime policies, and high taxation have provoked an exodus to the very states Biden condemned — and certainly a much larger migration than however many families decided to relocate to obtain harmful gender transition procedures for their children.
2. Lies about Congressional Action
Having borne false witness against state legislatures, the president proceeded to do the same against Congress. “In the United States Congress, extreme MAGA Republicans are trying to undo virtually every bit of progress we’ve made,” he argued. “They’re trying to wipe out federal funding to end the HIV epidemic, strip funding from community centers for seniors, reinstate the ban on transgender troops, ban the Department of Justice from enforcing civil rights laws, ban Pride flags from flying on public lands. … And they threaten the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.”
Let’s set the record straight.
“Federal funding to end the HIV epidemic” refers to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), America’s largest overseas aid program, devoted to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in undeveloped countries. It’s five-year authorization expired September 30. Pro-lifers in Congress agreed that PEPFAR was “critical legislation” and were concerned that the Biden administration had reimagined PEPFAR’s strategic direction, turning it into a vehicle to advance abortion and the LGBT agenda overseas — mostly because that’s what the Biden administration said they were going to do. After including some legislative protections to prevent the administration from pulling a fast one, House Republicans reauthorized PEPFAR for another year in the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which now sits unpassed in the U.S. Senate. To President Biden, passing a bill to fund the program amounts to “trying to wipe out federal funding.”
Next, Biden accused Republicans in Congress of wanting to “strip funding from community centers for seniors.” The factual basis for this claim is that in July the House Appropriations Committee struck $3.62 million for three LGBTQ community centers from the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. Only LGBT publications like The Advocate say the LGBT centers are for seniors. U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) said appropriators removed the funds because the community centers had programming supporting communism, drag shows, and the administration of gender transition hormones to minors. Some senior centers!
The president also said that congressional Republicans wanted to “reinstate the ban on transgender troops.” If not presented among so many other obvious untruths, this could be forgiven as careless wording more than an outright lie. But, in context, it’s clear that Biden’s word choices were deliberate, and this one too misrepresents the facts. The Trump-era regulation which Biden called a “ban” would merely prevent the military from becoming a glorified clinic for people rendered undeployable by deep mental health issues, and who were seeking expensive surgeries. It did not automatically kick someone out of the military simply because they claimed to be transgender.
Biden further claimed that Republicans wanted to “ban the Department of Justice from enforcing civil rights laws.” Again, that’s not at all what Republicans want. Republicans have taken issue with the DOJ rewriting civil rights laws to extend them to matters Congress never intended the law to cover. Specifically, the DOJ is attempting to redefine “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected categories, extending the Bostock decision even to laws Bostock didn’t address.
In addition, Biden accused congressional Republicans of seeking to “ban Pride flags from flying on public lands.” Like the “book ban” Biden previously mentioned, this attempts to conflate regulations on something’s appropriate use with making that thing unlawful. Congressional Republicans are actually seeking to prevent government agents and agencies from flying the Pride flag with taxpayer dollars, or in a way that gives the controversial symbol the government’s endorsement. But if, say, someone wants to hang a Pride flag from their camper in a national park, or if someone wants to turn it into a bumper sticker and drive down an interstate highway, congressional Republicans are not seeking to ban that.
Finally, Biden claimed that congressional Republicans “threaten the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.” Oh, if only that were true! Yet, just last year, 47 Republican representatives and 12 Republican senators voted to affirm same-sex marriage. There is currently no pro-marriage majority to undo that vote.
3. Lies about “Violence against LGBTQ Americans”
Biden referenced “violence against LGBTQ Americans” to argue that “we have to do more to keep people and their communities safe.” He offered five examples, but he bungled nearly every single one.
First on Biden’s list was the murder of Matthew Shepard. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent to 303 Creative v. Elenis, Shepard was “targeted by two men, tortured, tied to a buck fence, and left to die for who he was.” Much like George Floyd for BLM, Shepard’s death became a rallying cry for an entire movement against anti-LGBTQ violence. The only problem is, he wasn’t killed “for who he was.” Wrote National Review fellow Haley Strack, “Shepard, who was involved in the Wyoming meth drug culture, was murdered by a bisexual who confirmed that the murder had nothing to do with Shepard’s being gay.”
Next, Biden mentioned O’Shae Sibley, who he said was “killed while dancing and expressing joy.” The Associated Press reported that another teen began arguing with Sibley and his friends while they danced shirtless while filling up at a gas station, but that the argument broke up. Later, said The AP, in a video “Sibley could be seen following the teen and then lunging at him. The stabbing happened out of a clear view of the cameras.”
Biden then mentioned Laura Ann Carleton, who “hung a Pride flag outside her home,” and Colin Smith, who was “stabbed while defending a friend being harassed.” From cursory research, these seem to be the most accurate descriptors, but they still miss key information. Carleton hung a flag outside her business, not her home. Smith was stabbed on a bar patio in lawless Portland. Curiously, neither Carleton nor Smith personally identified as part of any LGBTQ group.
Lastly, Biden mentioned “the horrific shooting at Club Q [an LGBT nightclub] in Colorado Springs,” which killed five people and wounded nearly two dozen. The shooter, who identifies as “non-binary” and uses “they/them” pronouns to refer to himself, has been sentenced to serve five consecutive life sentences plus another 2,208 years in prison. But Biden said the episode highlights the need for stricter gun laws.
In summary, Biden’s list of examples of “violence against LGBTQ Americans” included three examples where the perpetrator or instigator identified as LGBTQ and two examples where the victim was someone who did not identify as LGBTQ. It also ignored the trend of violence committed by people who identify as LGBT, such as The Covenant School shooter.
4. Lies about Personal Experience
Not satisfied with unjustly slandering state and national legislators, Biden proceeded to fabricate stories about his own life. “I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again,” began the 80-year-old president.
“I wanted to work in the projects as a lifeguard on the east side of Wilmington. And [my dad] was dropping me off on his way to work at the City Hall to go get an application to be a lifeguard there. And as I got out of the car at the four corners at the center of town, two men — it turns out, one going to the Brandywine; one worked for the Dupont Company; the other worked for Hercules Company; this was back when I was a kid — and they leaned up and kissed one another. And I’d never seen that before. I turned and looked at my dad. And he just looked at me and said, ‘Joey, it’s simple. It’s simple, Joey. They love one another. It’s a simple proposition.’”
In a previous telling of this story — which Biden repeats often — he said the incident occurred in 1961, when he was 17 or 18. This was years before the Sexual Revolution launched and a full decade before the first known same-sex couple applied for a marriage license. It was one year before any state repealed its sodomy law and 11 years before Delaware repealed its sodomy law. It was 12 years before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
Most problematic of all, neither building Biden referenced had been built when he said the story took place. The Brandywine Building was built in 1969, while Biden was practicing law in Wilmington. The Hercules Building opened in 1983, while Biden was serving his second term in the U.S. Senate.
5. Descent into Confusing Nonsense
In fairness to President Biden, not everything he said on Saturday was an outright lie. He correctly characterized Hamas as the villain in their contest with Israel:
“A week ago, we saw hate manifest in another way in the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust. More than 1,300 innocent lives lost in Israel, including at least 27 Americans. Children and grandparents alike kidnapped and held hostage by Hamas. A humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Innocent Palestinian families — and the vast majority of them have nothing to do with Hamas. They’re being used as human shields.”
But Biden followed that up with a statement that won’t hold up in many other contexts. “Folks, we have to reject hate in every form. Because history has taught us again and again anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia — they’re all connected,” he said. “Hate toward one group, left unanswered, opens the door for more hate toward more groups, more often, readily. But here’s what which history shows: The antidote to hate is love. The answer to twisted, dehumanizing ideologies is solidarity and standing up for everyone’s humanity.”
Biden’s philosophy is clear: everyone has a binary choice between love or hate. The LGBT movement paints the slogan “love is love” on their banners. Or, as a columnist wrote last week in Philadelphia Gay News regarding Hamas’s intolerance of LGBT lifestyles, “hate is hate.”
But there are many things to love or hate, and sometimes loving one thing means hating something else, or at least deprioritizing it. Hamas is the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism, and Biden would likely regard them as homophobic too. But could Hamas ever succumb to Islamophobia? Taking an example closer to home, many of the most anti-Semitic members of Congress are among the most rabid proponents of the LGBT agenda. One member has a Palestinian flag outside her office and refused to condemn Hamas’s terror attack; next to it flies a Progress Pride flag.
In another illogical moment, Biden announced “an ambitious plan to end HIV,” boasting that his administration “finally did away with the outdated policy banning gay and bisexuals from donating blood.” In other words, allowing the group at highest risk of contracting HIV/AIDS to donate blood, which might be contaminated with the disease, is part of his plan to end the disease by 2030. “We’re leading with science, not stigma,” said Biden. Such awkward dissonance of ideas — “The Office” would be proud.
But out of all of Biden’s confusing moments, this one takes the cake. Biden delivered a message to LGBTQ-identifying youth across America, “We see who you are, made in the image of God, deserving dignity, respect, and support. That’s why my administration is combatting the dangerous, cruel practice of conversion therapy.”
Here Biden does a bait-and-switch. The “dangerous, cruel practice” refers to quack treatments such as electric shock therapy aimed at removing a person’s LGBT feelings; such practices are everywhere discontinued and nowhere proposed. Yet LGBT activists continue to push sweeping bans on so-called “conversion therapy,” a ban so broad that it encompasses any effort — including simple talk therapy, which is a widespread practice — to help a person move out of an LGBT lifestyle. Such therapy would simply involve affirming someone in their biological sex. Given the fluidity of sexual orientation, there would be quite a demand for such counseling, without any force involved.
Thus, a Christian counselor might tell a troubled young person seeking help to leave behind an LGBT lifestyle, “God made you in his image as male or female. The person God made you deserves dignity, respect, and support, and you don’t need to change to feel whole.” Biden wants to prohibit such counseling. But the reason he gives for wanting to ban such advice is quite similar to the advice he wants to ban.
6. Conclusion of Bad Theology
Biden concluded his address with some very popular but very bad theology. “I see a great nation because we’re basically a good people,” he said. But Jesus disagreed, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
“Folks, we’re the United States of America. And there is nothing beyond our capacity when we do it together,” said Biden. Here the biblical parallel is to the tower of Babel. “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them,” said God (Genesis 11:6).
So, God confused their language to divide them and stop their work. Confused language and division over language are widespread in America today.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.