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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen September 13, 2022

No, Biden didn’t call the Pope a ‘famous African American baseball player’

If Your Time is short

  • The video between President Joe Biden and Pope Francis from October 2021 was edited to remove the context of the conversation. 
  • The "famous African American baseball player" Biden was talking about was Satchel Paige, who made his Major League debut in his 40s.
  • Biden referenced Paige in a story he told the pope about aging.

Critics of President Joe Biden have frequently shared on social media edited videos where his remarks are cut short or taken out of context to make him look incomptent. 

Footage shared in a Facebook post from a meeting between Biden and Pope Francis is no different. 

The caption and subtitles for a seven-second video of an interaction between the two men claims that Biden told the pope: "you’re the famous African American baseball player."

The pope seems to respond with, "I know, I know," and the video ends. 

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.)

Similar claims circulated on social media in 2021 shortly after the meeting took place. 

But by including only a small portion of the interaction between the two men, the Facebook post leaves out crucial context that shows Biden wasn’t talking about the pope.

Biden met with several European leaders ahead of the G-20 summit in Italy in October 2021. He also went to the Vatican where he talked with the pope for nearly 90 minutes. 

Footage of the meeting released by the Vatican showed Biden was telling the pope a story about Satchel Paige, a Black baseball pitcher who made his major league debut in 1948 when he was 42. Paige went on to become the oldest player in major league history at the age of 59. 

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Biden, 79, in his talk with the pope, 85, was using Paige as an allegory for aging.

It’s unclear what Biden said as he starts the story; a transcript from CNN of the conversation describes the start of Biden’s sentence as being "inaudible." C-SPAN’s caption on footage from the meeting has the president starting the sentence with the words  "the most." 

Based on PolitiFact’s viewings of the clip, it’s possible Biden starts the story saying "there’s a" and goes on to say "famous African American baseball player in America."

Biden continued: "He didn't get to play in Major League Baseball until he was 45 years old because he was Black. And he was a pitcher, he threw the ball. And usually, pitchers lose their arm when they're 35. He pitched to win on his 47th birthday. The press walked into the locker room and said — his name was Satchel Paige — they came, and the guy said, ‘Satch, no one's ever pitched to win at age 47, how do you feel about pitching a win on your birthday?'" 

Biden quoted Paige as responding, "That's not how I look at age. I look at it this way: how old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?"

"You're 65, I'm 60," Biden jokingly told the pope.

Biden previously talked about Paige and his age when he welcomed the Los Angeles Dodgers to the White House in 2021 and during remarks he gave on Veterans Day in 2021. 

Our ruling

A Facebook video claims Biden called the pope the "famous African American baseball player" when the two met in 2021. 

The video was taken out of context from a longer exchange. Biden was telling the pope a story about a baseball player. At no point did he confuse the pope for the player. 

We rate this claim False.

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No, Biden didn’t call the Pope a ‘famous African American baseball player’

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