WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 22: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at his weekly news conference at the Capitol building on July 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Leader McCarthy spoke about the rise in inflation and its affects on his constituents and also the controversy over the make-up the January 6th select committee.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
'This is imaginary': CNN fact-checks Kevin McCarthy's Fox News interview claim
02:17 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

In public remarks on Thursday to Jewish leaders in advance of the High Holy Days, President Joe Biden spoke at length about the “scourge of anti-Semitism.”

Biden also said, in a halting comment, that he had visited Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, the site of a 2018 shooting massacre in which 11 people were murdered.

“I used to think that hate could be defeated, it could be wiped out. But I learned a long time ago, it can’t. It only hides. It hides. It hides under the rocks. And given any oxygen at all, it comes out. It’s a minority view, but it comes out, and it comes out raging. And it’s been given too much oxygen in the last four, five, seven, 10 years, and it has seen itself, whether it was – I remember spending time at the – you know, going to the – you know, the Tree of Life Synagogue, speaking with the – just –,” Biden said; he didn’t finish the sentence, instead continuing, “It just is amazing these things are happening – happening in America.”

But the synagogue’s executive director, Barb Feige, told the New York Post on Thursday that Biden did not actually visit.

Facts First: Biden’s claim about “spending time at” and “going to” Tree of Life is false; he did not go to the synagogue. Biden did, however, speak by phone to Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers in 2019. A White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Friday that this call is what Biden was referring to in his Thursday comments – in which, after inaccurately recalling “spending time at” and “going to” the synagogue, he also mentioned “speaking with” someone.

Myers said in a statement to CNN on Friday: “President Biden kindly called me on my cell phone as I was sitting in Dulles Airport awaiting a return flight to Pittsburgh after I testified before Congress in July 2019. In a heartfelt way, he extended his condolences and asked how we were doing. We spoke about the challenges of antisemitism, and he made clear he would confront it with us as president. The conversation meant a great deal to me, and I will always be grateful for his kind words and continued support of our community.”

Nonetheless: Biden told Jewish leaders, and the members of the public who watched the event, that he had actually gone to the synagogue and spent time there. A phone call is not the same thing. And if he had meant to correct his talk of “spending time at” and “going to” the synagogue by adding the part about “speaking with” someone, he could have made that clear.

Then-President Donald Trump visited Tree of Life in October 2018, the month of the massacre.