Strange things about Joe Biden’s marriage
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Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden (née Jacobs), tied the knot in June 1977. It was five years after the politician’s first wife, Neilia Biden, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, tragically died in a car crash. While Joe’s union with Jill, a longtime educator, was preceded by unimaginable heartache, the couple’s marriage has also been marked by many happy moments, including the birth of daughter Ashley in 1981.
However, like most pairings, their relationship isn’t without its flaws — in fact, there are plenty of curious facts concerning this partnership, including some questionable details about their engagement. We don’t want to spill all of the tea right away, but what was supposed to be a romantic moment involved a major ultimatum from the democrat. (Uh-oh.) Not to mention the odd ways in which Joe’s political career has shaped the duo’s relationship, especially concerning the #MeToo movement and the 1991 scandal involving Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Ready to dig deep into this intriguing romance? Take a seat as we uncover all of the strange things about Joe and Jill Biden’s marriage.
It all started at the airport
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Whether it’s a chance encounter or blind date, couples meet through a myriad of ways. As for how Joe Biden found longtime love Jill Biden? Well, it wasn’t your average meet-cute. Look no further than the airport in Wilmington, Del. — and before you get all sappy on us with images of stolen glances at the baggage carousel, you should know that this isn’t the most lovey-dovey story out there.
According to her 2019 memoir, Where the Light Enters, Jill had posed in an ad campaign for New Castle County’s Parks and Recreation division, which ultimately ended up at said airport in the mid-’70s. Joe, who traveled frequently at the time, was apparently enamored with this woman in the photos, and told his brother, Frankie, that the mysterious model was his dream date. We guess this is what they call love at first sight? Interesting. In a random yet fortuitous twist, Frankie knew a mutual friend of Jill’s and was able to get her phone number, which was notably unlisted at the time. Just one day after Joe procured Jill’s digits, he called his future wife up for a date in March 1975. When she asked how he’d gotten her number, the politician’s answer was oddly curt. In her book, Jill recalled Joe saying, “My brother Frank gave it to me. I just got back into town and was wondering — are you free tonight?” Nope, not strange at all.
Joe wasn’t Jill’s type … like, at all
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When Jill Biden first met future Vice President Joe Biden, he was just three years into his run as Delaware’s longest-serving senator. The prestigious title might have drawn other potential dates to the dashing politician like moth to a flame, but this wasn’t the case for his soon-to-be wife. In fact, then-college student Jill didn’t want anything to do with Joe at first. “I was a senior, and I had been dating guys in jeans and clogs and T-shirts, he came to the door and he had a sport coat and loafers, and I thought, ‘God, this is never going to work, not in a million years,'” she told Vogue in 2016. “He was nine years older than I am!” (Age difference aside — loafers? How could you, Joe?)
Despite her reservations, the single dad with two young sons, Hunter and Beau, eventually won Jill over with his chivalrous ways. “But we went out to see A Man and a Woman at the movie theater in Philadelphia, and we really hit it off,” she continued. “When we came home … he shook my hand good night … I went upstairs and called my mother at 1:00 a.m. and said, ‘Mom, I finally met a gentleman.'” Phew! Nice save, Joe. We’re glad to hear this blossoming romance worked out despite the then-senator’s questionable taste in footwear.
The rocky road to engagement
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When Joe Biden proposed to Jill Biden, it wasn’t actually a one-time deal. In a surprising and arguably odd twist, he had to ask for her hand in marriage a whopping five times before she said “yes.” Talk about persistence. To be fair to Jill, she had some pretty understandable reasons to hesitate on getting hitched, including a failed first marriage, a budding career, and plans for graduate school. “I knew that if I married Joe, I’d have to give up my apartment, the only space that was just for me,” she wrote in Where the Light Enters (via Time). “I’d have to quit my job for the boys’ sake … And I’d have to become Jill Biden, senator’s wife. It was all too much.”
After her initial rejection, Joe popped the question three more times, before giving Jill a stern ultimatum in 1977. “‘I’ve been as patient as I know how to be, but this has got my Irish up. Either you decide to marry me, or that’s it — I’m out. I’m not asking again,'” she went on to recall him saying in her memoir. “His blue eyes, normally alight, seemed clouded with gray. ‘I’m too much in love with you to just be friends.'” Of course, she eventually agreed to his proposal, and the rest is history. Although this story ended on a happy note, an ultimatum isn’t most romantic of gestures.
Jill’s chance encounter with Joe’s late wife
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As mentioned above, Joe Biden tragically lost his first wife, Neilia Biden, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, to a fatal car accident in December 1972. According to The New York Times, the couple’s sons, Hunter and Beau, also suffered serious injuries during the wreck after a tractor-trailer struck the family’s station wagon, which had been en route to buy a Christmas tree. While the politician wasn’t familiar with Jill Biden at the time, his future wife had a chance encounter with Neilia just weeks preceding her death.
The fleeting moment occurred at a 1972 victory party celebrating Joe’s first senate win, when Jill had spotted Neilia in the large crowd. “She had an easy, natural beauty that made her look almost out of place in the frantic crowd,” Jill wrote in Where the Light Enters, adding, “From across the room, you could see how happy she was — happy, and incredibly proud.” For whatever reason, Jill decided to say hello. “On the spur of the moment. I walked up to her, held out my hand, and said, ‘Congratulations on your win,'” she continued. “She took my hand, smiled graciously, and said, ‘Thank you so much.'” While this seems to be an eerie coincidence, it’s comforting to know that Jill had the chance to meet Hunter and Beau’s late mother.
Jill’s take on the Anita Hill controversy
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Joe Biden has long been associated with one scandal going back to 1991, when lawyer and professor Anita Hill accused soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. To quickly recap Biden’s role, New York magazine reports that he’d presided over Thomas’ confirmation hearings and Hill’s testimony, both of which some critics believed he handled poorly, especially concerning his treatment of the latter. However, the ongoing controversy resurfaced when the politician launched his 2020 presidential bid in April 2019. For her part, Jill Biden addressed the renewed backlash that May, telling NPR, “He voted against Clarence Thomas. And as he has said, I mean he’s called Anita Hill, they’ve talked, they’ve spoken, and he said, you know, he feels badly. He apologized for the way the hearings were run. And so now it’s kind of — it’s time to move on.”
We understand that Jill isn’t responsible for her husband’s actions, but found it strange that she appeared to react so flippantly to the situation, particularly within the context of the #MeToo movement. Of course, the educator deserves the chance to learn and grow from the past. However, in an opinion piece for Essence, journalist Michael Arceneaux highlighted the problem with her take, writing, “Jill Biden doesn’t get to decide how people should feel about Joe Biden’s treatment of Hill — especially if she never played an active role in helping him do damage control on a lingering controversy of his own creation.”
It’s kind of strange that Jill has to defend her husband’s actions
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In addition to speaking out on the Anita Hill matter, Jill Biden has found herself in the awkward position of defending Joe Biden against his alleged history of touching women inappropriately. In March 2019, former Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores claimed that the then-vice president sniffed her hair and planted a “big slow kiss” on the back of her head at a rally in 2014. “My brain couldn’t process what was happening,” she wrote in an essay for New York magazine. “I was embarrassed. I was shocked.”
For his part, Joe later stated that he had never meant to make Flores feel uncomfortable and pledged to “listen respectfully” to women in the future. Meanwhile, Jill addressed the controversy on Good Morning America. “I think what you don’t realize is how many people approach Joe,” she said. “Men and women, looking for comfort or empathy. But going forward, I think he’s gonna have to judge — be a better judge — of when people approach him, how he’s going to react. That he maybe shouldn’t approach them.”
While Jill isn’t the first wife of a politician to have to deal with these types of allegations, that doesn’t make her plight any less uncomfortable. We’re not sure of the “right” way to handle this situation, but the professor at least approached these claims with some tact.
Is Joe ignoring Jill’s wishes?
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Jill Biden has always been forthright about her disinterest in potentially becoming first lady one day. While touching on this sentiment in Where the Light Enters, the professor compared her situation to former First Lady Michelle Obama. “Like me, she had a career of her own — the title of First Lady wasn’t one she was seeking, but she believed deeply in Barack’s leadership and did everything she could to support him,” she wrote, before stating in another excerpt that she’d always been more comfortable with teaching. “I was grateful to be Second Lady. It was an incredible honor. But the role I have always felt most at home is being ‘Dr. B.’ — working with first-generation college students, teaching them to write essays.”
Her continued disinterest in the prospective title certainly hasn’t been lost on the press. In February 2019, for example, The Washington Post published piece titled, “Jill Biden has never wanted to be first lady, but Joe can’t win the White House without her.” Given Jill’s outspoken reservations, it’s fair to wonder why former Vice President Joe Biden entered the 2020 presidential race at all. While it’s all a little odd, it should be noted that the longtime teacher is still “excited and proud” of her husband’s decision to run for the highest political office in the United States.