joe biden
If Joe Biden isn't lying, he's probably misremembering.

In the case of the former vice president's recent claim that he was arrested in South Africa in the late 1970s for attempting to meet with the recently released Nelson Mandela, Biden almost certainly lied, according to his own staff.

Biden "was separated from the [Congressional Black Caucus] members he was traveling with at the airport," campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield told the Washington Post. "Biden was separated from a congressional delegation in South Africa and was referring to that."

Bedingfield stressed it was just a "separation."

"When he landed, he was not allowed to go through the same door as the rest of the party he was with," she said. "Obviously, this was apartheid South Africa. There was a white door. There was a black door. He did not want to go through the white door and have the rest of the party go to the black door. He was separated."

Her explanation is a long, long way off from the version of events Biden told supporters earlier this month in both Nevada and South Carolina.

"This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid," Biden said during a Feb. 11 campaign event in Columbia, South Carolina. "I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robben Island."

Later, on Feb. 16, Biden told a crowd in Las Vegas, Nevada, "After [Mandela] got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office. He threw his arms around me and said, 'I want to say thank you.' I said, 'What are you thanking me for, Mr. President?' He said: 'You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.'"

His anecdote raised red flags immediately for five reasons.

First, for all his years in public life, no one could recall Biden ever talking about being arrested in South Africa, which, according to the former vice president himself, happened at around the time he proposed to his wife in 1977.

Second, after Biden told the Mandela story on three separate occasions on the 2020 campaign trail, no one could find evidence of the alleged incident, which is astonishing considering Biden was sworn in as a senator in 1973, four years prior to his supposed arrest in South Africa. It should not be difficult to find evidence of a member of the U.S. Congress being forcibly detained in a foreign country during an overseas trip in the late 1970s.

Third, Soweto is roughly 900 miles away from Robben Island.

Fourth, the aforementioned delegation Biden traveled with did not even land in South Africa. It landed in Lesotho, which has been its own independent kingdom since 1966.

Lastly, it should not go ignored that before Biden's spokeswoman responded eventually to the press on Feb. 25. It was a full two weeks after the former vice president first claimed he had been arrested in South Africa — the campaign ignored multiple requests for clarification from news reporters, including five separate requests from the New York Times.

This is the part where Biden's supporters argue now that he merely misremembered what happened. Well, good luck convincing people that the former vice president simply "misremembered" being "arrested" in South Africa at an airport at which he didn't land and then "misremembered" being thanked personally by Nelson Mandela for his bravery.

At this point, it may be safe to just use the word "lie" to describe Biden's tale of courage under South African fire.