WASHINGTON — President Biden did not visit the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the murder of 11 congregants — despite saying so, the White House admitted Friday.
Biden on Thursday told Jewish leaders that he remembered “spending time at” and “going to” the Tree of Life, but the synagogue told The Post he never visited.
Nearly 24 hours after being asked about the discrepancy, a White House official said in a statement that Biden “was referring to a call he had with the Tree of Life rabbi in 2019.”
Biden’s initial false statement received widespread criticism and was featured in segments on CNN and Fox News.
The 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life was the worst anti-Jewish hate crime in US history.
Biden has a reputation for making false or embellished claims and dropped out of his first presidential campaign in 1988 due to a plagiarism scandal. But at nearly 79 years old, his mental acuity also is a frequent matter of public debate.
In one infamous misstatement, 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 Island,” where Mandela was in prison until 1990. He said Mandela thanked him for it.
Biden later admitted, “I wasn’t arrested, I was stopped. I was not able to move where I wanted to go.”
Biden dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential primary due to a plagiarism scandal. He admitted plagiarizing a law school paper and was exposed for using without credit lines from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.
However, Biden struggled with his memory at the Thursday event.
The president could not recall the name of the song “Hava Nagila” while speaking about his daughter’s wedding to a Jewish man, saying, “My mind is going blank now, what’s the song that is played where everybody is on the chair? I can’t remember it.”
Although Biden incorrectly said he visited the Tree of Life, the congregation’s rabbi, Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, indicated there were no hard feelings in a statement released by the White House.
“President Biden kindly called me on my cell phone as I was sitting in Dulles Airport awaiting a return flight to Pittsburgh after I testified before Congress in July 2019,” Myers said.
“In a heartfelt way, he extended his condolences and asked how we were doing. We spoke about the challenges of antisemitism, and he made clear he would confront it with us as president. The conversation meant a great deal to me, and I will always be grateful for his kind words and continued support of our community.”
Then-President Donald Trump visited the Tree of Life three days after mass shooting. Trump was joined by prominent Jewish members of his administration, including his daughter Ivanka Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.