President Biden’s retelling of a story from 15 years ago about a minor fire at his Delaware home is facing renewed criticism after he recounted the incident to victims of the deadly Hawaii wildfires on Monday, suggesting he could understand “a little sense” of their experience.
During his visit to the fire-ravaged area in Maui, Biden shared the memory of the fire that had ignited at his Wilmington residence due to lightning. He remarked, “I don’t want to compare difficulties, but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it was like to lose a home. Years ago, now 15 years, I was in Washington doing ‘Meet the Press.’ Lightning struck at home on a little lake outside the home. Not a lake. A big pond. It hit the wire and came up underneath our home, into the air conditioning ducts. To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my ’67 Corvette and my cat.”
Biden has recounted this story multiple times in recent years, seemingly aiming to establish a connection with victims of natural disasters.
A 2004 report by The Associated Press, available in the LexisNexis archives, detailed the incident, mentioning that lightning had struck the Bidens’ home, causing a “small fire that was contained to the kitchen.” The report stated that firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control within 20 minutes and prevented it from spreading beyond the kitchen.
The Republican National Committee shared videos on Tuesday that showed Biden narrating different versions of the same story.
In October of the previous year, Biden had recounted the incident to victims of Hurricane Ian in Florida, implying that he had lost “an awful lot” of his home due to the fire.
Why does Biden keep telling disaster victims a fake story about his house burning down?— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 22, 2023
Here is Biden in October telling Hurricane Ian victims he lost "an awful lot" of his house to a fire — which, of course, isn't true.pic.twitter.com/O1gqPHTehr
In January 2022, Biden shared with Colorado wildfire victims that he came close to losing his home to the fire, claiming that approximately 25% of it had been destroyed. However, during his address at the Summit on Fire Prevention and Control in October 2022, he described the fire’s smoke as causing destruction “from the basement to the attic,” and mentioned that “we almost lost a couple firefighters” who had responded to the incident.
In November 2021, Biden recounted a scenario where he mentioned that he had a house burn down while his wife was inside, fortunately escaping unharmed, “God willing.”
Biden’s recent comments to the Maui victims have prompted comparisons to a previous incident when he was criticized for displaying a lack of empathy towards Gold Star families who lost their loved ones in a terrorist attack in Kabul during the Afghanistan military withdrawal in 2021.
Several Gold Star families remembered Biden repeatedly discussing the loss of his son Beau, who had served in Iraq with the Army and later succumbed to brain cancer in 2015.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) expressed his views on the matter, stating on a platform like X (formerly known as Twitter), “This callousness Biden displayed echoes his approach to Gold Star Families after the Afghanistan withdrawal. His evident lack of empathy and cruelty reveal his true character.”
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It's the same callousness Biden showed toward the Gold Star Families after his Afghanistan withdrawal.— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) August 22, 2023
The cruelty and lack of empathy shows Biden's real character. https://t.co/bGu0tlMsOQ
Numerous families of Gold Star recipients continue to express their dissatisfaction with Biden’s treatment of them in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Kabul’s airport on August 26, 2021, which claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California, revealed that he is still awaiting a response from the White House regarding his request for a meeting between Biden and the families, who are set to be in Washington, D.C., later this month.
Cheyenne McCollum, who lost her brother in the Kabul attack, recounted that during a three-minute conversation with the president, he failed to meet her family’s eyes and predominantly discussed Beau, Biden’s late son.
Reflecting on the incident in a 2021 interview with “Fox & Friends,” Cheyenne stated, “I endured about 15 seconds of his insincere, rehearsed apology before I had to leave.”
During the same period, Shana Chappell, the mother of Lance Cpl. Nikoui, expressed her frustration on Facebook, writing a strongly-worded post that criticized Biden for steering their conversation toward Beau and for displaying dismissive body language when she challenged him.