By Brea Jones
President Joe Biden claimed in a July 20 speech that growing up in Delaware near oil refineries gave him cancer. Posts on social media misinterpreted that to mean he currently has cancer. A White House spokesperson said Biden was referring to a skin cancer that was removed before he became president.
On July 20, President Joe Biden spoke about what his administration has done to tackle climate change. During the speech, Biden blamed Delaware oil refineries for causing his bout with cancer in the past and high cancer rates in the state.
In the transcript and live video of the speech, Biden said, “That’s why I and so damn many other people I grew up [with] have cancer.” Here is the White House transcript of Biden’s remarks:
Biden, July 20: I just lived up the road. I just — in an apartment complex when we moved to Delaware. And just up the road was a little school I went to, Holy Rosary grade school. And because it was a four-lane highway that was accessible, my mother drove us and — rather than us be able to walk. And guess what? The first frost, you knew what was happening. You had to put on your windshield wipers to get, literally, the oil slick off the window. That’s why I and so damn many other people I grew up [with] have cancer and why can- — for the longest time, Delaware had the highest cancer rate in the nation.
But that’s the past, and we’re going to get — we’re going to build a different future with one — one with clean energy, good-paying jobs.
White House physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor released a health summary for Biden in November 2021 that confirmed that he had skin cancer that was removed before he became president — though O’Connor linked Biden’s cancer to sun exposure, not Delaware oil refineries.
“It is well-established that President Biden did spend a good deal of time in the sun in his youth. He has had several localized, non-melanoma skin cancers removed with Mohs surgery before he started his presidency,” O’Connor said in the report.
“These lesions were completely excised, with clear margins. Total body skin exam was performed for dermatologic surveillance. Several small areas of actinic change were treated with liquid nitrogen cryotherapy, but there are no areas suspicious for skin cancer at this time,” the report added.
Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, confirmed on Twitter that Biden was referring to previously disclosed skin cancer — not a new diagnosis.
But posts on social media shared a short clip of Biden’s remarks, claiming he said he currently has cancer.
A video on Facebook said in its title, “Joe Biden LIED About Having Cancer?!” The caption on the post read, “Are we sure it’s cancer and not dementia? This guy has been lying since the second he took office.”
“Did Biden just say he has CANCER? Very concerning if true, but I HIGHLY DOUBT he knows what he’s talking about,” read a tweet from Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas.
“Cancer AND Covid? Rough day for Biden,” said another tweet referring to Biden’s recently announced COVID-19 diagnosis.
“Did Joe Biden just announce he has cancer?” the Republican National Committee tweeted.
Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted a response to the RNC.
“How dumb is this tweet? Check out Biden’s medical report. Before he became president, he’d had non-melanoma skin cancers removed,” Kessler said. “Has no one at @RNCResearch ever had this common procedure?”
Bates, the White House spokesperson, shared Kessler’s tweet and said, “This is what the President was referring to.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Bates, Andrew (@AndrewJBates46). “This is what the President was referring to.” Twitter. 20 Jul 2022.
Bontempo, Gina (@FlorioGina). “Cancer AND Covid? Rough day for Biden” Twitter. 21 Jul 2022.
Jackson, Ronny. “Did Biden just say he has CANCER? Very concerning if true, but I HIGHLY DOUBT he knows what he’s talking about. Biden’s cognitive decline is so bad, he’s 100% UNABLE to read from a teleprompter. This has gone too far. He needs to RESIGN!” Twitter. 20 Jul 2022.
Kessler, Glenn (@GlennKesslerWP). “How dumb is this tweet? Check out Biden’s medical report. Before he became president, he’d had non-melanoma skin cancers removed. Has no one at @RNCResearch ever had this common procedure?” Twitter. 20 Jul 2022.
Mayo Clinic. “Nonmelanoma skin cancer.” Accessed 22 Jul 2022.
O’Connor, Kevin. “Letter from Dr. Kevin O’Connor: President Biden Screened ‘Positive’ for SARS-CoV-2.” White House. 21 Jul 2022.
O’Connor, Kevin. “President Biden’s current health summary.” White House. 19 Nov 2021.
“O’Connor named White House physician; ’88 Bona’s alum was Biden’s doctor as VP.” St Bonaventure University. 27 Jan 2021.
“Remarks by President Biden on Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” White House. 20 Jul 2022.
RNC Research (@RNCResearch). “Did Joe Biden just announce he has cancer? ‘That’s why I — and so damn many other people I grew up with — have cancer.’” Twitter. 20 Jul 2022.