Fact check: Biden didn't mangle proverb about teaching someone to fish

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Rick Rouan, USA TODAY
·3 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The claim: President Joe Biden botched a proverb about teaching someone to fish

President Joe Biden has been so prone to verbal missteps during his 50-year political career, he acknowledged himself as a “gaffe machine” in his 2017 book.

Some posts on social media tried to tie that reputation, and the president’s lifelong struggle with stuttering, to jumbled quotes.

In one widely circulated meme, social media users link Biden to a botched attempt to explain a proverb about teaching someone to fish, which emphasizes the power of educating someone about how to help themselves.

A Facebook post falsely attributes this version of the proverb to Biden: “Buy a man eat fish, he day, teach fish man, to a lifetime.” The real version of the proverb is, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

A user who posted the quote did not respond to a request for comment.

President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy, not fishing, at the State Department on Feb. 4.
President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy, not fishing, at the State Department on Feb. 4.

Biden’s history of gaffes and verbal miscues

Some of Biden's quips and jokes have landed him in hot water. In his 2017 book, "Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose," Biden wrote that those moments helped voters see authenticity in him.

“The voting public was tired of careful and carefully packaged candidates,” he wrote, according to an excerpt from Vox. “My reputation as a ‘gaffe machine’ was no longer looking like a weakness. The public could see that I spoke from the heart and I meant what I said.”

Fact check: Posts about Biden's executive orders, quote about dictators need context

Biden has publicly shared about his stutter.

During the presidential campaign, supporters of President Donald Trump used Biden’s penchant for misspeaking to attack his mental fitness.

During the Democratic presidential primary race, Biden slipped during a Texas campaign event before catching himself, referring to Super Tuesday as “Super Thursday.”

At a campaign event last February in South Carolina, where the primary turned Biden’s fortunes in the 2020 election, Biden told a crowd he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate instead of president.

Days after being sworn in as president, Biden responded to a Fox News reporter who asked him what he spoke about with Russian President Vladimir Putin: “You. He sends his best."

Joe Biden campaigns for Democratic Senate candidates in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 2020.
Joe Biden campaigns for Democratic Senate candidates in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 2020.

Circulation of the meme

Though Biden has had his share of gaffes, a search of the mangled proverb did not return any results tying it to him.

The quote showed up on social media channels for several days, even before some users attributed it to Biden. One Facebook post on Feb. 1 generated about 3,000 comments. Another version was posted to a Facebook page for memes.

It has been shared dozens of times on Twitter, sometimes falsely attributed to Biden.

Fact check: Meme falsely claims parents are sewing human teeth into monster dolls

Our rating: False

The claim that President Joe Biden mangled the proverb about teaching someone to fish is FALSE. Although Biden has been prone to gaffes in his political career, this meme wrongly attributes “Buy a man eat fish, he day, teach fish man, to a lifetime” to the president.

Fact check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Joe Biden didn't mangle proverb about teaching man to fish