It was a heart-rending story with an emotional impact capable of fundamentally shifting the race for the nation’s highest office.
And the man at the center of it says it never happened.
Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Beau, tragically died of brain cancer at age 46 on May 30, 2015.
Stories began to circulate that Beau’s dying wish was for his father to run for president, injecting a powerful emotional narrative into the growing cries for him to join the 2016 presidential race. Many sought an alternative to Hillary Clinton, who’s candidacy was beginning to look damaged from the controversy over her use of a personal email server while serving as secretary of State.
Yet, on 60 Minutes Sunday night, Biden said the stories of Beau’s dying request were the stuff of Hollywood fantasy.
“Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win,” Biden said, “but there was not — what is sort of made out as this Hollywood-esque thing — that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, ‘Dad you’ve got to run,’ like, ‘Win one for the Gipper.’ Wasn’t anything like that.”
Biden explained that he simply didn’t run because he didn’t think he could win.
“I’ll be very blunt,” he said. “If I thought we could have put together the campaign that our supporters and our contributors deserved I would have gone ahead and done it.”
It was a difficult decision, and “It took that long for us to decide as a family.”
In the end, Biden felt that the loss of his son was too much to bear while trying to run a presidential campaign.
“Dealing with the loss of Beau, any parent listening who’s lost a child knows that it doesn’t follow schedules of primaries and caucuses and contributors and the like,” he said. “Everybody grieves at a different pace.”
His wife, Jill, who was present for part of the interview, said she was “disappointed” her husband decided not to run. “I thought Joe would be a great president,” she said.
Biden said that he will never run for political office again, but he stressed that he wants to keep his finger in the pie.
“I do want to influence the Democratic Party,” the vice president said. “I want to make no bones about that. I don’t want the party walking away from what Barack and I did.”
Biden said his decision about whether or not to run was about whether he could do the best job as president, and in no way about running to stop Clinton.
He seemed to prickle a bit at the suggestion that he decided not to run because of Clinton’s strong performance in the first Democratic debate.
“I’ve debated Hillary 13 times in national presidential debates,” he said. “I know Hillary, I know her debating skills, and I know mine. I never had any doubt about her intellect or her capacity to debate.”
As to rumors that he can’t stand the former secretary of State, Biden said, “Go back and find anybody who says that for the four years we worked together Hillary and I weren’t friends.”
Biden said he was “disappointed” in the the current Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, for his “attack on all immigrants.”
“I thnk that is beneath the country,” he said. “I don’t think it’s where the American people are, and I really hope he doesn’t believe it.”
Biden expressed optimism that the administration’s final year will be a productive one. He hopes the president can generate support behind a “moon shot” to jump start research into a cure for cancer. He also hopes the administration will have some luck working with Congress if Rep. Paul Ryan is elected speaker.
“I think we can make some real progress — particularly with Paul Ryan, who’s a good guy — on working toward an accomodation on the budget and on keeping government open.”