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Former Vice President Joe Biden embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 7, 2020 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP/Elise Amendola) Former Vice President Joe Biden embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 7, 2020 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP/Elise Amendola)

Former Vice President Joe Biden embraces Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Feb. 7, 2020 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP/Elise Amendola)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 4, 2020

Pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook post cherrypicks Joe Biden’s record on segregation

If Your Time is short

  • Bernie Sanders was arrested in 1963 at a Chicago protest about segregation.

  • Joe Biden, as a U.S. senator representing Delaware, opposed federally mandated busing for school desegregation in 1975.

  • Biden supported other integration measures including in housing.

As Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden compete for African American voters in the Democratic primaries, a Facebook post portrays the two politicians as being on opposite sides of the segregation issue decades ago.

"Bernie Sanders in 1963 — arrested protesting segregation. Joe Biden in 1975 — passionate speech defending segregation," stated a March 2 Facebook post.

The accompanying side-by-side photos show Sanders being arrested and Biden from decades ago. The post has been circulating at least since June 2019, around the time that Biden’s past statements on busing became a hot topic in the Democratic primary.

We found that the post is accurate about Sanders’ arrest, but it doesn’t tell the full story about Biden’s record on segregation. 

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.)

Sanders’ 1963 arrest protesting segregation

We previously fact-checked a separate Facebook post that stemmed from Sanders’ 1963 arrest in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune wrote a story in February 2016 about the photo and confirmed with Sanders’ campaign that it was him.

Sanders, who at the time was a 21-year-old student at the University of Chicago, was arrested in August 1963 at a South Side protest over school segregation. Sanders was charged with resisting arrest, found guilty and fined $25, according to the Tribune’s reporting.

The protests that led to the arrest were over mobile classrooms dubbed "Willis Wagons," named for then-Chicago Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis. Black children were kept in the trailers rather than being allowed in white schools.

A January 1964 Tribune story on the court cases of those who had been arrested mentioned a Bernard Sanders.

Biden’s statements on segregation and busing

RELATED: Joe Biden oversimplifies his school busing record in Miami debate

Featured Fact-check

The Facebook post doesn’t cite a particular speech by Biden, then a Delaware U.S. senator, in 1975, but it likely refers to his statements opposing busing.

Biden won his Senate seat in 1972 on a platform of integration, but once in office, he faced white constituents who overwhelmingly opposed busing to achieve integration. A Gallup poll in 1973 found that while a majority of Americans supported school integration, only 5% supported busing. 

A federal court order in 1974 to integrate Wilmington, Del., schools brought the issue home for Biden. In the Senate, he began supporting much of the anti-busing legislation.

In 1975, Biden supported an amendment by Sen. Jesse Helms, a North Carolina conservative who opposed civil rights, while stating he didn’t share all the views of those who opposed busing.

The amendment, which Helms called an "anti-busing amendment" was intended to ban schools from using federal funds to classify teachers or students based on race..

"I have become convinced that busing is a bankrupt concept that, in fact, does not bear any of the fruit for which it was designed," Biden said on the Senate floor Sept. 17, 1975. "If anything, it obfuscates the real issue today, which is whether or not there is equal opportunity within the educational field for all people within the United States." 

Biden said that rather than busing, the Senate should focus on all areas of opportunity in housing, education, equal credit and voting rights to provide minorities with equal access.

When the Helms amendment was defeated, Biden himself proposed measures to oppose busing as a segregation remedy. 

But that same year, Biden co-sponsored a 10-year extension of the Voting Rights Act, sponsored legislation to prohibit creditors from discriminating on the basis of race and opposed the nomination of Ben Blackburn, who had voted against civil rights bills in Congress, to the federal bench.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said "Bernie Sanders in 1963 — arrested protesting segregation. Joe Biden in 1975 — passionate speech defending segregation."

The post is correct about Sanders — he was arrested in Chicago in 1963 for protesting school segregation. But the text attacks Biden too broadly when it states that he was "defending segregation."

Biden did oppose court-ordered busing in 1975, a program intended to achieve school integration. But he supported other legislation that aimed to fight segregation in housing and expand voting rights.

We rate this statement Mostly False.

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Pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook post cherrypicks Joe Biden’s record on segregation

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