WASHINGTON — Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), his presidential campaign already stumbling because of admissions of plagiarism, acknowledged Monday that he embellished his academic record in impromptu remarks during an appearance in New Hampshire last April.
However, Biden denied that his remarks--captured on a videotape at a coffee klatch in Claremont, N. H., April 7--represented a wholesale fudging of his college and law school record.
But once again, as he has twice before in the last 10 days, Biden had to acknowledge that a news report raising an embarrassing matter from the past was essentially correct. Previously, he admitted having plagiarized a paper while a law school student and, in recent campaign appearances, used quotations from other politicians to spice up his speeches, sometimes without giving credit to the authors.
Taped by Cable Network
At the April event in New Hampshire, taped by the C-SPAN public service cable network, a man identified as "Frank" asked Biden: "What law school did you attend and where did you place in that class?"
Biden, appearing somewhat irritated, started off his reply this way: "I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect."
He then said he was "the outstanding political science student" in his class at the University of Delaware, that he graduated from college with three degrees, that he went to Syracuse University Law School on a full academic scholarship and that he graduated in the top half of his law school class.
In a statement issued late Monday to "clarify" those comments, Biden acknowledged he did not graduate in the top half of his law school class. "My recollection of this was inaccurate," he said.
According to academic records Biden gave to reporters last week, he was 76th in his law school class of 85 and graduated from the University of Delaware with a C average, ranking 506th in a class of 688.
One Degree Not Three
In Monday's statement, Biden also conceded that he did not graduate with three degrees but rather with one degree in a double major, political science and history. "My reference to 'degrees' at the Claremont event was intended to refer to those two majors--I said three and I should have said two."
As for his claim of being the "outstanding" student, Biden said only that he had been nominated for the award.
Similarly, Biden said he received a scholarship to go to law school but did not clarify whether it was a full or half scholarship. His records suggest it was the latter.
While Biden clearly hoped to ride out the storm over his inaccurate remarks, others expressed doubt about his prospects.
Bonnie Campbell, head of the Iowa Democratic Party, said the developments are a serious blow to Biden's chances of winning Iowa's precinct caucuses Feb. 8, the first big test for the Democratic candidates.
"It's a little bit of a one-two punch," Campbell said.
Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), who unsuccessfully ran for the presidential nomination in 1976, said the controversy "may be a fatal blow" to Biden's campaign.
"It has all the makings of an end to the '88 campaign," he said.
Biden, who had hoped to enhance his political prospects this month with a forceful showing during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork, avoided reporters Monday at the hearing. He is chairman of the panel.