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VERIFY: Fact vs. fiction on Joe Biden’s quote about busing leading to ‘a racial jungle’

Here is what the Democratic presidential candidate actually said in a 1977 Senate hearing.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has come under fire for a 1977 quote regarding the racial integration of public schools. Claims posted online show a photo of Biden next to a quote, “I don’t want my children to grow up in a jungle, a racial jungle.”

THE QUESTION

Did Joe Biden really say that busing policies for desegregation would turn public schools into “a racial jungle?"

THE ANSWER

In a 1977 Senate Judiciary hearing, Biden did talk about busing policies and how “unless we do something about this, my children are going to grow up in a jungle, the jungle being a racial jungle with tensions having built so high that it is going to explode at some point.” 

The quote in the claim that has been spreading online is false. Biden did not directly say, “I don’t want my children to grow up in a jungle, a racial jungle.”

WHAT WE FOUND

Biden’s full quote be found in the text of the 1977 hearing. The quote occurred during debate on federal funding involving busing. 

The words resurfaced after a June 2019 Democratic debate in which Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., confronted Biden, saying, “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”

Biden defended his record, responding that it was the federal funding of busing that he had opposed, believing that local authorities should be responsible for paying for busing.

In 1977, Biden advocated achieving racial integration through affordable housing rather than busing, The New York Times found in an analysis “of thousands of documents” from that period. It also led him to join with segregationist senators such as Jesse Helms to oppose U.S. Department of Education funding for busing.

Biden sought an "orderly integration of society," not just integration in schools, the records show. He feared busing would anger white people whose children would be sent to “inferior” schools in urban neighborhoods and from black people, whose children would come to resent conditions in the “ghetto,” the Times reported.

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