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President Joe Biden smiles as he arrives to deliver remarks to State Department staff, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP) President Joe Biden smiles as he arrives to deliver remarks to State Department staff, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

President Joe Biden smiles as he arrives to deliver remarks to State Department staff, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman February 8, 2021

If Your Time is short

  • Biden told State Department workers, “I've been with some of you when we've been shot at.”

  • Some have questioned in the past whether Biden was directly shot at during foreign trips. 

  • In August 2007, he was pressed on the issue and said, “I was near where a shot landed.” 

  • We can’t independently verify if Biden was shot at, but it is well-documented that he has traveled to trouble spots and areas of active fighting. 

In a speech praising State Department employees for their dedication, President Joe Biden mentioned that he had been shot at in the past, reviving memories of remarks he made in 2007 about his visits to Iraq as a senator.

"You not only have great intellectual capacity, you have great personal courage," Biden said Feb. 4. "I've been with some of you when we've been shot at. I've been with some of you when we've been in places that you would not have any idea you'd want to be when you were going to schools of foreign policy and foreign service. They never told you that was going to happen. But you're an incredible group of individuals."

Following his speech, critics questioned whether Biden had ever actually been shot at. News reports replayed Biden’s comments about his visits to Iraq in 2004 and 2005. In response, White House officials pointed to additional news reports about experiences Biden had while visiting Iraq as vice president in 2009 and 2010.

In the past, Biden has at times blended stories or given an unsubstantiated personal account about past events. 

We can’t independently verify if Biden was shot at, but it is well-documented that he has traveled to trouble spots and areas of active fighting. Here is a review.

What Biden said in 2007 about his visits to Iraq

During the campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Biden and other candidates spoke of plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.

At a July 23, 2007, CNN debate, Biden made a comment about the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heavily fortified area from which U.S. and Iraqi forces administered occupied Iraq. The area was a frequent target of mortar attacks.

"Let's start telling the truth," said Biden, then a senator from Delaware. "No. 1, you take all the troops out. You better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them, or let them die."

Two weeks later, Biden reworded his statement in a more detailed account, according to The Hill. The Hill wrote that Biden described three incidents on two separate Iraq trips in which he felt that he was shot at or might have been shot at in 2004 and 2005. 

In an incident inside the Green Zone, a shot landed outside the building where he and other senators were staying. He also said that the vehicle he was traveling in the day before might also have been hit.

Biden said the incident happened in the morning while he and at least one other senator were shaving, the Hill wrote.

"No one got up and ran from the room — it wasn’t that kind of thing," he said. "It’s not like I had someone holding a gun to my head."

The Hill wrote: "Thinking about it now, he said, a more accurate comment would have been: ‘I was near where a shot landed.’"

Biden’s visits to Iraq while vice president

A Biden White House spokesperson pointed to news reports about incidents in 2009 and 2010 when Biden, then the vice president, was in Iraq.

The New York Times reported in September 2009 that Baghdad’s international zone was attacked by rocket fire during Biden’s visit. Biden was in Iraq to meet with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

"One rocket landed on the edge of the American Embassy compound, about a mile from the building where the two leaders met, wounding several people at a security company, according to the Interior Ministry," the Times wrote. It was not clear if the attack was aimed at Biden’s entourage, but his arrival had been widely broadcast, the Times wrote. Militants had previously fired at the Green Zone.

In July 2010, mortars hit the Green Zone when Biden was visiting to celebrate the U.S. Independence Day holiday with American troops and meet with Iraqi political leaders CNN reported. There were no injuries or damage to the building.

"All are going to have to play a meaningful role in this new government in order for it to work,'' Biden told Iraqi leaders at a U.S. Embassy reception, the AP reported. "My plea to you is finish what you started."

RELATED: Joe Biden falsely claims that he immediately opposed Iraq War

RELATED: Joe Biden on the Truth-O-Meter

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Our Sources

American Presidency Project, Remarks to State Department Staff, Feb. 4, 2021

Factba.se, Remarks: Joe Biden Meets With State Department Personnel, Feb. 4, 2021

The News Journal, Carper, Biden heading to Iraq to see situation firsthand, Dec. 1, 2005

NBC, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden in Iraq to monitor country's voting, Dec. 15, 2005

CNN, CNN/Youtube Democratic presidential debate transcript, July 23, 2007

The Hill, Biden revises claim he was ‘shot at’ in Iraq, Aug. 8, 2007

New York Times, Green Zone Takes More Fire During Biden Visit, Sept. 16, 2009

AP, 3 arrested for rocket attack during Biden visit, Sept. 16, 2009

CNN, Mortars hit Green Zone during Biden visit, July 4, 2010

AP, AP News in Brief, July 4, 2010

AP, Biden presses Iraqis to work together; Suicide bombers strike during visit, July 5, 2010

AP, Baghdad’s Green Zone, a barometer of war and peace, May 31, 2019

PolitiFact, First with details, but it's not the "only" plan, Sept. 9, 2007

PolitiFact, Richardson first said it might work, Oct. 17, 2007

PolitiFact, Richardson defaults to 'fast as possible' Oct. 17, 2007

PolitiFact, Joe Biden falsely claims that he immediately opposed Iraq War, Sept. 5, 2019

PolitiFact, The facts behind Joe Biden’s blended story of battlefield heroism, Sept. 4, 2020

PolitiFact, Joe Biden’s Pants on Fire claim about his arrest in South Africa, March 4, 2020

Email interview, T.J. Ducklo, President Joe Biden spokesperson, Feb. 5, 2021

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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In context: Joe Biden’s remarks about being 'shot at' in Iraq