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Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sparred over health care at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston. (AP) Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sparred over health care at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sparred over health care at the Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 4, 2020

Fact-checking an attack on Biden and Warren that harks back to 1962

If Your Time is short

  • There is no evidence that Joe Biden worked with segregationists in 1962, though he did oppose busing for desegregation in the 1970s.

  • Elizabeth Warren registered as a Democrat in 1996 but was a conservative as a teenager.

  • Bernie Sanders spoke up against segregation in the early 1960s.

A pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook post says that the Vermont senator was a longtime opponent of segregation and the Vietnam war while portraying two of his rivals — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — as holding views more in line with the right.

The post makes a series of claims about the three candidates about their views or statements in 1962.

It states that Biden "worked with segregationists," while Warren called the Democratic Party ‘subversive’ and "debated as a pro-Vietnam conservative."

The post said that Sanders "organized against segregation and Vietnam war." 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We will leave it up to voters to consider the importance of the candidates’ actions in 1962, when Biden and Sanders were college students and Warren was in her early teens. But here we will explain what the post got right and wrong about these Democrats running for president.

Biden ‘worked with segregationists’

We found no evidence that Biden worked with segregationists in 1962, when he was a college student at the University of Delaware. 

We have previously fact-checked statements related to Biden’s record on busing for school desegregation in 1975. While Biden opposed mandatory busing, he supported other measures designed to combat inequities in voting and housing.

In June 2019, Biden faced a backlash after he used the term "civility" in describing his work in 1970s with senators James Eastland, D-Miss., and Herman Talmadge D-Ga., who were both segregationists. Biden said they "didn't agree on much" but they "got things done."  

He later apologized for his comments and defended his civil rights record.

Warren called the Democrats ‘subversive’ and ‘debated as a pro-Vietnam conservative’

This attack on Warren says these were her positions about the Democratic Party and the Vietnam War in 1962. She was around 13 years old at the time. U.S. involvement in Vietnam was minimal in 1962 — it wasn’t until 1965 that the U.S. deployed combat troops.

Featured Fact-check

Warren is now a progressive Democrat, but when she was a teenager she was a conservative. The New York Times found that when Warren was in high school in the 1960s, the dominant culture in her state of Oklahoma was conservative.

Warren’s high school friend Katrina Cochran told the New York Times that Warren was "extremely conservative at the time."

"She would ask me what other subversive organizations I was a member of besides the Democratic Party," Cochran said.

Warren’s older brother Don Reed flew combat missions in the Vietnam War. Warren has said that growing up, her family didn’t discuss politics at the dinner table

Subhead: Sanders ‘organized against segregation and Vietnam war.’

There is photographic evidence showing Sanders was involved in protesting segregation in the early 1960s. Snopes found in 2016 that a 1962 photo by Danny Lyon showed Sanders speaking to a group of students at a sit-in at the University of Chicago. And a 1963 photo shows Sanders getting arrested while protesting school segregation.

Sanders was anti-war in the 1960s, and as a college student he was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Student Peace Union.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said in 1962, Biden "worked with segregationists," Warren called the Democratic Party "subversive" and "debated as a pro-Vietnam conservative" while Sanders "organized against segregation and Vietnam war."

In 1962, Biden was a college student and we found no evidence that he worked with segregationists then. In the 1970s, Biden worked with fellow Democratic lawmakers who were segregationists and opposed federally mandated busing for school desegregation, but the post doesn’t fully reflect his civil rights record. 

Warren’s high school friend told the New York Times that she referred to the Democratic Party as subversive. Warren was a conservative as a teenager in the 1960s, but in 1962, she was only 13 years old, and full U.S. troop deployment to Vietnam wouldn’t start for a few more years.

Overall, the attack is misleading about Biden and Warren, although it correctly notes that Sanders opposed segregation and the Vietnam War.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

Our Sources

Washington Post, There really was a ‘Corn Pop’ — but critics question Joe Biden’s oft-told story, Sept. 16, 2019

The Root, Joe Biden’s Corn Pop Story Is a Parable About How White People See Us Sept. 17, 2019

NBC, Biden doubles down on segregationist comments, says critics like Cory Booker 'should apologize' to him, June 19, 2019

Los Angeles Times, Elizabeth Warren’s long path from Oklahoma to Harvard, Sept. 22, 2019

Snopes, Does This Photograph Show Bernie Sanders at a 1962 Civil Rights Sit-In? March 3, 2016

Phaidon, When Danny Lyon met Bernie Sanders, Feb. 2, 2016

New York Times, How Elizabeth Warren Learned to Fight, June 24, 2019

New York Times, Biden Defends Eastland Remarks but Omits Some History, June 21, 2019

Washington Post, Tensions ripple through Biden campaign as his past working relationship with a segregationist senator comes to the forefront, June 20, 2019

CNN, Letters from Joe Biden reveal how he sought support of segregationists in fight against busing, June 28, 2019

Politico, Biden apologizes for remarks about segregationists, defends civil rights record, July 6, 2019

Congressional Record, Sept. 17, 1975

Wilmington Evening Journal, "Biden cosponsors Voting Rights extension," May 23, 1975

Congress.gov, S.1927 - Equal Credit Opportunity Act Amendments, June 12, 1975

Congress.gov, S.1281 - An Act to extend the authority for the flexible regulation of interest rates on deposits and share accounts in depository institutions, to extend the National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfers, and to provide for home mortgage disclosure, 1975

AP, Panel rejects nominee, 1975

New York Times, Gallup Finds Few Favor Busing for Integration, Sept. 9, 1973

PolitiFact, No, Bernie Sanders didn't toss eggs at civil rights protesters. He was one of the protesters, Feb. 25, 2020

PolitiFact, Joe Biden oversimplifies his school busing record in Miami debate, June 28, 2019

PolitiFact, The Democratic debate resurrected controversy over busing. But is it an issue today? July 3, 2019

Email interview, Chris Hayden, U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren campaign spokesman, March 3, 2020

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Fact-checking an attack on Biden and Warren that harks back to 1962

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