Reactions on Twitter went viral Sunday after a writer challenged a story Joe Biden often tells about how he successfully confronted an armed black gang member named “Corn Pop” at a swimming pool — after calling him a woman.
Michael Harriot, a senior writer at The Root, kicked off the ruckus Saturday tweeting his suspicions about the 1962 incident involving the “Romans” gang leader that Biden has repeated several times, including in his autobiography. The controversy was also fueled by a clip posted in a tweet by a columnist from the right-wing Daily Caller.
But CNN found a 2016 obituary for “Corn Pop” and quoted a former mayor of Wilmington, Delaware, where the pool was located, who said Corn Pop, “real as the moon in the sky,” was confrontational. The former mayor — and others — also heard of the confrontation at the time.
In addition, a CNN fact check by reporter Daniel Dale confirmed that the “Romans” gang existed at the time in Wilmington.
Corn Pop was a “bad dude and he ran a bunch of bad boys,” the former vice president said at a 2017 appearance at the pool, which has been named after him. But Biden, who has said he was the only white lifeguard at the predominantly black pool, dared to call out Corn Pop for bouncing on the diving board.
“I said, ’Hey Esther, off the board or I’ll come up and drag you off,” he recounted. Biden was referring to the actress Esther Williams, known at the time for choreographed swimming scenes in Hollywood movies. Anyone with “pomade” in his hair, as Corn Pop did, had to wear swimming caps, Biden explained, which Biden apparently thought heightened Corn Pop’s similarity to the actress.
Corn Pop got off the board, but then waited for Biden at his car with “three guys [all] with straight razors,” he recalled. “No joke.” Biden said he wrapped a heavy chain around his arm and told Corn Pop he had to listen to him at the pool. But he apologized for calling him Esther Williams.
Corn Pop “closed the straight razor, and my heart began to beat again,” said Biden, who insisted the men became friends.
This is BIZARRE!— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) September 15, 2019
Here's Joe Biden telling the story of his face-off with a gang of razor-wielding ne'er-do-wells led by a guy named 'Corn Pop.' pic.twitter.com/DddRtWgdza
Former state NAACP President Richard “Mouse” Smith has supported Biden’s account. He said Corn Pop was the leader of the Romans and had threatened Biden. Smith said Biden “stood his ground” against Corn Pop after he threatened to “cut him.”
But Harriot’s suspicions about the story set Twitter aflame — from all sides.
Thread: I'm always astounded by the imaginings of white people as it relates to race. Many of them have this fictionalized jigaboo version that is almost alien-like. And one of the greatest examples of this ever is Joe Biden's story about Corn Pop the gangsta.— michaelharriot (@michaelharriot) September 14, 2019
But this is not about Biden.— michaelharriot (@michaelharriot) September 14, 2019
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.
RIP my nigga Corn Pop.
This is how it sounds when thugs die
Yes Virginia there really is a “corn pop.” https://t.co/8N2fh3jNyU— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) September 15, 2019
GET OUT OF THE DARN POOL, CORN POP! CUT THE MALARKEY! pic.twitter.com/BOZY0bZXBL— beth, corn pop truther (@bourgeoisalien) September 15, 2019
Booker confirms that Corn Pop is T-bone's grandfather, Biden claims to have rumbled with a guy named Grape Nut at "the drive-in theater where the pretty gals on roller skates brought you your milkshakes", Booker confirms he rescued Grape Nut's son Pork Chop from a gang drugs fire— (control font) HENRY DUBB (@bombsfall) September 15, 2019
(The “problem” with the Corn Pop story isn’t if it is true or not, but why on earth he feels the need to TELL it, repeatedly. What it means to him and why. What message is conveyed and how and at whose expense and whose gain)— Martha Crawford LCSW (@shrinkthinks) September 15, 2019
2. For some reason many people are assuming that Corn Pop isn't real etc. I am certainly not saying that. It's more about the VP's delivery. https://t.co/v55RlWdoxR— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 15, 2019
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost.