An old – and fairly bizarre – story that Joe Biden told at a public event about a showdown with a razor-wielding gang member named “Corn Pop” at a Delaware pool is going viral on Twitter, but the story has circulated in Wilmington for years, and there really was a man with that name.
Biden was a lifeguard at an integrated pool in 1962. In the video, which you can watch later in this article, Biden says, “This was the diving board area, and I was one of the guards. Corn Pop was a bad dude, and he ran a bunch of bad boys. Back in those days, you see how things have changed, if you used pomade in your hair you had to wear a bathing cap.”
Biden said Corn Pop was up on the board and wouldn’t listen to him. He told him to get off the board or he would have to “drag him off.” He also called him “Esther,” a reference to Esther Williams.
By Biden’s recollection, Corn Pop said, “I’ll meet you outside.” Biden said he parked his car outside the gate, and Corn Pop said, “I’ll be waiting for you.” He was waiting with three guys with straight razors, said the former vice president, who was in college at the time. “Not a joke,” said Biden, who made the comments two years ago when the Brown-Burton-Winchester Park in Wilmington, Delaware was renamed the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Aquatic Center.
Although some are ridiculing Biden for this story on social media, there’s a lot of evidence that the substance of it is true.
Here’s what you need to know:
Biden Says He Confronted Corn Pop With a Chain & a Former Delaware NAACP President Confirmed Biden ‘Stood His Ground’
Biden said a friend cut off part of a chain at the pool and told Biden to tell Corn Pop, “you may cut me man, but I’m going to wrap this chain around your head.”
“I said, ‘You’re kidding me,'” recalled Biden. His friend told him, “If you don’t, don’t come back.”
“And he was right,” Biden recounted. “I walked out with the chain. I walked up to my car. In those days, remember the straight razors, you’d bang them on the curb, get ‘em rusty, bang ’em on a rain barrel, get ’em rusty. I looked at him, but I was smart then. I said, ‘First of all…when I tell you to get off the board, you get off the board, and I’ll kick you out again.. but I shouldn’t have called you Esther Williams, I apologize. But I don’t know if that apology is going to work.'”
“You apologize to me?” Corn Pop asked. Biden said he told the gang member, “I apologize not for throwing you out, but for what I said. He said ok and closed his straight razor and my heart started to beat again.” The video was shared by a Daily Caller freelance contributor, and it has been viewed more than 2 million times.
Others have backed up the tale. Among them: Former state NAACP President Richard “Mouse” Smith. He said during the pool event that Corn Pop was, indeed, the leader of a gang called the Romans. He said that Biden was threatened by Corn Pop.
Smith said in the above video: “We had three or four gangs.” He mentioned the Romans and said they came to the pool. “The Romans were like the oldest gang compared to anything else.” He said people weren’t supposed to bounce on the diving board. “When Joe told Corn Pop to stop, to not bounce on the board, Joe used not only Esther but also French language.” At this point in the story, Smith laughed. He said that Corn Pop started “instigating Joe” and Biden was told, “He’s going to cut you.” Biden was threatened that he was going to get his as* “whipped” and was told not to come back to the pool, said Smith.
Smith said the manager told Joe Biden to get help from the police. “Joe got nervous but he stood his ground,” said Smith in the speech at the center.
The Washington Post previously recounted the Corn Pop story in 2017, reporting that Biden “was the only white lifeguard at the Prices Run swimming pool in Brown-Burton Winchester Park,” and “he was one of the only white people there at all.”
William L. Morris, Otherwise Known as ‘CornPop,’ Died in 2016, His Obituary Says
Daniel Dale, a CNN reporter who fact checks politicians, reported that he discovered an obituary for William “CornPop” Morris. “Biden is facing skepticism for a story he has told about a 1960s confrontation at a Wilmington, Delaware pool with a guy named Corn Pop — partly because of the name Corn Pop,” he wrote. “Here’s an obituary for Wilmington’s William L. ‘CornPop’ Morris, who died at 73 in 2016.”
According to an obituary posted on Legacy.com via Delaware Online, William L. Morris “passed away with family by his side on Dec. 2, 2016. Home going services will be held at Mother UAME Church 701 E 5th street on Saturday Dec. 10th. Viewing will be from 10-12pm and services following. Arrangements provided by Bell Funeral Home.” The obit says he was known as “CornPop.”
Dale added: “Former Wilmington mayor Dennis Williams tells me this is the CornPop of the Biden incident. He says he grew up across the courtyard from CornPop in a housing project. He says CornPop, ‘real as the moon in the sky,’ was confrontational as a young man…Williams says he heard about Biden’s confrontation with CornPop the day after it occurred.”
Dale also found evidence that there was a gang called the Romans, just as Biden said. “Some of the skepticism has been about the name of the gang or crew Biden said CornPop ran with, the Romans. Here’s an article from Delaware’s News Journal in which a local historian says there was a Wilmington gang called the Romans in the 1960,” he wrote. “In conclusion: I can’t yet confirm the details of an alleged incident at a Delaware pool in the 1960s, but if you’re skeptical because of the ‘CornPop’ the ‘Romans,’ that’s a real guy and a real group, and Biden isn’t the only one who recalls a Biden-CornPop confrontation.”
The Joe Biden & Corn Pop Story Has Circulated for Years & Earned Biden Respect in the Black Community, Reports Say
In 2010, The Root ran a story about Joe Biden and the Corn Pop Tale. “Shortly after he ousted a guy named Corn Pop for breaking the rules at the all-black pool, Joe Biden considered calling the police to escort him to his car once his shift ended,” the story reported.
It says that Corn Pop’s gang was called the Romans and described Biden as the “lone white lifeguard at Prices Run—one of the few public pools in Wilmington, Del., open to non-whites during the 1960s.” Biden made fun of Corn Pop’s hair and kicked him out. The Root reported that Corn Pop was upset, but Biden, a college student at the time, got him to back down by grabbing a chain.
The Root claimed that the incident was well-known and it earned Biden “respect of the African-American community” in Wilmington, Delaware. “That’s where it all started,” Joe Brumskill, a former Wilmington school board president who worked on Biden’s Senate campaigns, told The Root’s Chana Garcia. “He grew up working with black people, and we got to know him well.
However, Michael Harriot is a writer for the Root. He is questioning Biden’s story on Twitter, writing, “This is a celebration of the life of a straight razor-carrying certified street thug who I’d bet my pinky toe never existed. But if you ask Biden, I bet he’d say Corn Pop has passed on.”
According to RealClearPolitics, though, the video is not the only time Biden has told the story. It also appears in one of his books.
This post was updated to reflect that the person who shared the video is a freelance contributor whose last piece for Daily Caller was in March 2019, not an editor.
READ NEXT: Joe Biden’s Bloody Eye.