President Biden claimed last month at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony that he was appointed to the military school in 1965 by the late Sen. J. Caleb Boggs (R-Del.), but a search of Boggs’ archives has failed to turn up evidence to back the claim.
Curators at the Delaware Historical Association in Wilmington were able to find records of Boggs’ academy nominations for just one year in the early 1960s and could not locate records for either 1965 or the more plausible year 1961.
That means, barring evidence from an unlikely third party, that only Biden — who often shares incorrect or exaggerated memories — can prove his claim.
“Our staff devoted a large chunk of last week to this project. We hauled and sorted through a few dozen boxes from the relevant years, which proved to be a needle-in-a-haystack proposition, as we feared,” chief curator Leigh Rifenburg told The Post.
Rifenburg said the three-person library staff was able to find a list of Boggs’ academy picks for 1962 after a “box-by-box” search, but that Biden wasn’t on that list. A congressional nomination is needed to attend the academy, but it’s unclear if Boggs nominated candidates each year, Rifenburg said.
There are basic biographical problems with Biden’s claim that he was appointed in 1965 — most significantly, the fact that Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 before attending law school at Syracuse University. The academy doesn’t grant graduate degrees.
“To be safe, we searched the full range of dates from 1960 to 1965. It does seem extraordinarily unlikely that an appointment would have been made in 1965, given President Biden’s years of matriculation at the University of Delaware, but we wanted to be thorough,” Rifenburg said.
“We were unable to find appointments for entry in 1961, 1963, 1964, or 1965,” she said.
As vice president in 2010, Biden told a slightly different version of the story at the Naval Academy’s graduation that year.
In the earlier version, Biden, who graduated from high school in 1961, said he was “considered” by Boggs. He said that happened in 1960, which also is potentially problematic because Boggs didn’t become a senator until 1961.
“In 1960 I was a pretty good football player at the University of Delaware and I was one of the guys that applied to come to this great academy,” Biden recalled in 2010. “And a fellow named J. Caleb Boggs considered me and I thought I was going to be a pretty good ballplayer. And then I found out you had two guys in the backfield back in those days … and I realized I wasn’t gonna get a chance to play at all. You had a guy named [Roger] Staubach and a guy named [Joe] Bellino. So I went to the University of Delaware.”
Bellino and Staubach are the only two Navy midshipmen to win the Heisman Trophy as the best college football players in America. Bellino won the award in 1960, while Staubach did so in 1963.
A White House official told The Post on Tuesday, “The president has spoken about this in the past — including when he addressed the 2010 US Naval Academy commencement. As he said in 2010, and recently, the president considered attending the Naval Academy but ultimately took his football talents to the University of Delaware.”
Biden’s speech on May 27 cast his supposed near-enrollment at Annapolis as a laugh line. According to the president, during a 1972 Senate election debate against Boggs, the then-incumbent remarked that his young challenger would have still been in the military if he went to the academy in 1965 — as he would have graduated in 1969 and then been commissioned for five years.
“The best line of the debate was after it’s all over, the announcer, the questioner — who was a good guy, but supported my opponent, who was a good man as well, I might add — and he said, ‘Sen. Boggs, is there anything else you want to say?’ And he said, ‘Yes, just one thing.’ And he took the microphone. He said, ‘You know, Joe, if you accepted my commission to the — my appointment to the academy,’ he said, ‘you’d still have one year and three months’ active duty and I’d have no problems right now,’” Biden said.
The president’s claim has outraged some listeners.
A widely read Monday post on Barstool Politics likened the claim to “stolen valor” and compared it to North Carolina Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s misleading claim that his Naval Academy dreams were derailed by the car accident that left him paralyzed. In fact, Cawthorn had been turned down for admission before the accident took place.
Democrats hammered Cawthorn, 26, for the claim. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), for example, tweeted last year that “the biggest lie a politician has ever told” was “[l]ying about getting into the Naval Academy.”
Biden, 79, is the oldest-ever sitting US president and his detractors often accuse him of being in mental decline — though he also has a decades-long record of telling stories that don’t add up.
The president frequently shares fictitious or embellished stories in an attempt to relate to his audiences. For example, since taking office, Biden has told at least seven times a chronologically impossible tale involving a former Amtrak conductor to underscore his love of passenger rail.
In another example, Biden in September told Jewish leaders that he remembered “spending time at” and “going to” the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the mass murder of 11 people in 2018. The synagogue said he never visited and the White House later said he was thinking about a 2019 phone call to the synagogue’s rabbi.
Also in September, Biden told an Idaho audience that his “first job offer” came from local lumber and wood products business Boise Cascade. The company said it was news to them and Biden had not previously described an interest in moving to the state.
In January, Biden told students of historically black colleges in Atlanta that he was arrested during civil rights protests — for which there also is no evidence.
Biden in 2020 claimed he “had the great honor of being arrested” in South Africa when he was “trying to get to see [Nelson Mandela] on Robbens [sic] Island,” where Mandela was in prison until 1990. He said Mandela thanked him for it, but later admitted that it was untrue.
Biden ended his first presidential campaign in 1988 due to a scandal involving plagiarism of speeches and a law school paper as well as controversy over claims he made about his academic record.