PHILADELPHIA − Louis Snipe admires President Joe Biden. He has a much different opinion of Grandpa Joe Biden.
Snipe, a Lyft driver who spent years repairing pool tables for work, credits Biden for rebuilding the economy and restoring dignity to the White House.
Yet Snipe has trouble squaring his support with one of Biden’s family decisions: Biden’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of his four-year-old granddaughter living in Arkansas who his son, Hunter Biden, fathered out of wedlock.
“If my children have children, they’re my children,” said Snipe, himself a 70-year-old grandfather of five. “It amazes me – I’ll put it that way,” Snipe said, speaking over a Curtis Mayfield jam on the radio and through a face mask to a backseat passenger.
Biden’s image as a family man who values decency and compassion is central to the political identity he’s fostered over five decades in public office. But those virtues have taken a hit as Biden publicly recognizes only six grandchildren and fails to mention the little girl born to Hunter Biden and 32-year-old Lunden Roberts, whom Hunter met during the peak of his well-documented battle with drug addiction.
“If that’s the case, that’s fine, but just admit that you have a seventh grandchild,” said Beth Binns, a 78-year-old grandmother of seven and a retired receptionist from Philadelphia who votes Republican. “You can’t leave that child out in the cold. I think it’s a disgrace. And he calls himself a Christian, a Catholic?”
Republican candidates have attacked the president over the issue, suggesting that it shows a lack of empathy.
Yet even among Democratic supporters in Philadelphia − a city Biden carried with more than 80% of the vote in 2020 and where he kicked off his 2020 campaign − the issue doesn’t sit well with all, particularly among fellow grandparents who can put themselves in the president’s shoes.
In interviews with about two dozen Philadelphians, most Biden supporters shrugged off Biden’s failure to acknowledge the granddaughter as a “personal decision.” Some didn’t know about the situation.
But other Biden backers said they differed with him on his handling of the matter.
“That’s one area where I think I have a disagreement,” said Herron Miller, a 66-year-old grandfather of two, who works as a technical coordinator for steel at Philly Shipyard, where Biden visited last Friday to tout his efforts to boost domestic manufacturing. “I think he should acknowledge that that’s another granddaughter. But I’m not sure how important that is to national policy.”
President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Hunter Biden with his son Beau watch the Independence Day fireworks display from the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 4, 2023.
‘Hypocritical’: Some Biden supporters say he should be open about grandchild
Hunter Biden and Lunden Roberts settled a child support dispute last month, but the issue remains highly sensitive for Biden and White House aides, who have refused to answer questions on the subject.
To listen to Biden, one wouldn’t know he has a seventh grandchild.
“I have six grandchildren. And I’m crazy about them. And I speak to them every single day,” Biden told a group of children on the White House South Lawn in April during “Take Your Child to Work Day.”
During the Biden’s first Christmas in the White House, the first couple displayed six stockings with the names of their grandchildren, but not the grandchild in Arkansas.
First lady Jill Biden dedicated her 2020 children’s book “Joey: The Story of Joe Biden” to her grandchildren, mentioning only six of them by name.
“I don’t have anything to share from here,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this month when asked whether Biden acknowledges Hunter Biden’s child in Arkansas as the president’s granddaughter.
David Basenow, a 71-year-old former writer and publisher in medicine from Philadelphia, supports Biden but said the president’s unwillingness to recognize his granddaughter is “a bit hypocritical.” He also doesn’t see a political downside in acknowledging a grandchild his son had out of wedlock.
“It happens in every family,” Basenow said, “and makes him more like the people who will probably vote for him … He’s somebody who’s not on a pedestal. He does have problems in his family and they’ve come to terms with it.”
‘I have six grandchildren. And I’m crazy about them. And I speak to them every single day,’ President Biden told a group of children on the White House South Lawn in April during ‘Take Your Child to Work Day.’
Hunter Biden, 53, met the girl’s mother, Lunden Roberts, when she was working as a dancer at a Washington strip club and he was going through a cycle of destructive behavior fueled by addiction. Their daughter was born in 2018, and Roberts filed a paternity suit against him a year later in Arkansas.
Biden challenged the suit, writing in his 2021 memoir “Beautiful Things” that the women he’d been with during that period “were hardly the dating type.” Biden said he had no recollection of his encounter with Roberts, whom he did not mention by name.
“That’s how little connection I had with anyone,” he wrote. “I was a mess, but a mess I’ve taken responsibility for.”
Child support settlement kept out the Biden name
Lunden Roberts could not be reached for comment for this story and her attorneys did not respond to requests to interview her.
A judge ruled in 2020 that Biden was the girl’s biological father following a DNA test, and he agreed to pay child support that was later disclosed to be $20,000 a month, for a total of $750,000. But last September he asked the court to reduce the amount because of changes in his income.
Roberts filed a motion last December asking the court to change the girl’s last name to Biden, arguing taking on her father’s name “would greatly impact and preserve her legacy as a member of the Biden family.”
“The Biden name is now synonymous with being well educated, successful, financially acute and politically powerful,” Roberts’ attorney wrote in the court filing.
Biden fought the name change, with his lawyer arguing Roberts was pursuing “political warfare against the Defendant and his family.”
A trial in the child support case had been set for July, but the parties reached a settlement in June, about a week before Biden agreed to plead guilty to federal two misdemeanor counts of tax evasion in Delaware.
As part of the settlement, Biden, who has had success selling his artwork, agreed to give his daughter multiple paintings, and the girl’s mother agreed to withdraw her motion for the child to have Biden’s last name.
“We both want what is best for our daughter, and that is our only focus,” Roberts told the New York Times.
Democratic voters not afraid of a morality contest with Trump
Lunden Roberts and her daughter live in Batesville, Arkansas, where she grew up. A star basketball player, the 5-foot-8 Roberts graduated with honors from Southside High School and played for one season at Western Illinois before transferring to Arkansas State. A team biography said she also enjoyed hunting and shooting skeet.
Roberts’ Instagram account is filled with photos chronicling her young daughter’s life. In one posted on the Fourth of July, the blonde-haired girl waves a small American flag and is dressed in a white jumpsuit adorned with the stars and stripes. In another, the child wears a white Air Force One baseball-style cap while standing on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. In yet another, the girl gazes affectionately at her mother while they pose on a sandy beach.
“I hope one day when you look back you find yourself proud of who you are, where you come from, and most importantly, who raised you,” Roberts wrote in the photo caption.
In her interview with the New York Times, Roberts said she brought her daughter to Washington for a visit because not many little girls get to say that their grandfather is the president.
“She’s very proud of who her grandfather is and who her dad is,” Ms. Roberts said. “That is something that I would never allow her to think otherwise.”
President Joe Biden with his grandchildren Natalie Biden (L), Hunter Biden (3R), his wife first lady Jill Biden (2L) and a friend walk across the South Lawn upon return to the White House in Washington, DC on March 14, 2021.
Republican presidential candidates have ramped up attacks over Biden’s refusal to recognize his seventh granddaughter and incorporated it into their relentless assault against the Biden family and Hunter Biden, in particular.
“Why don’t you spend some time with your granddaughter in Arkansas, or at least recognize her existence before you start worrying about our kids?” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said this month in Nashville at a dinner hosted by the Tennessee Republican Party.
But if Republicans want a morality contest with Biden, the president’s supporters say they’re happy to have one.
The frontrunner for the 2024 presidential GOP nomination remains Donald Trump, the twice-impeached, twice-indicted former president who was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil suit filed by the author E. Jean Carroll.
“Trump has been guilty of everything possible,” said Rich Henry, an 80-year-old former music teacher in Philadelphia and grandfather of five. “It’s a problem, yeah,” Henry said of Biden’s seventh grandchild as he watched a chess match outside Philadelphia City Hall, “but it’s a personal problem.”
Linda Katz, a retired grandmother of two who previously ran a children’s literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, called Biden “the best president of my lifetime.”
Katz made phone calls to voters as a volunteer for Biden’s 2020 campaign − and the controversy over Biden’s granddaughter won’t stop her from helping in 2024.
“I think he’s in a difficult position. He has to respect his son,” Katz said, pointing to brothers of former presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon who brought controversies to their administrations. “I mean, it happens. It’s personal. And I’m sure he’s handling it with compassion and grace like he always does.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Collins @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden supporters struggle to square refusal to recognize granddaughter