First Lady Jill Biden says she felt like a ‘failure’ after her divorce from her first husband, admitting she thought there was something ‘wrong with her’ because she was unable to make the relationship work.
The 69-year-old sat down with popstar and daytime host Kelly Clarkson for her first solo TV interview as First Lady, during which she addressed the breakdown of her marriage to Bill Stevenson, which ended in 1975 after just five years.
But while the professor admitted that she placed the blame for the split on herself, she said that she didn’t meet second husband Joe, 78, until after she the break-up – despite her ex-husband telling DailyMail.com that the couple had an affair, which ultimately destroyed his marriage.
Opening up: Jill Biden had admitted that she blamed herself for her divorce from her first husband while chatting to Kelly Clarkson in her first solo TV interview as First Lady
‘Healing’: The 69-year-old said it ‘took her a long time’ to ‘heal’ after her split from ex-husband Bill Stevenson – and she said that her relationship with Joe, 78, happened ‘unexpectedly’
Together: Jill (pictured with Joe in 1988) said that she met Joe after she split from her husband – contradicting his claims that the couple had an affair which ended the marriage
Sitting down in the East Room of the White House, Jill told Kelly that she took ‘a long time’ to ‘heal’ after the divorce, before ‘unexpectedly’ meeting Joe at a time when she didn’t believe she would marry again.
‘It took me a long time, it took me at least a year to get on my feet again,’ she said.
‘I didn’t know anybody who had been divorced, I felt like it was a failure on my part [and] I lost my self esteem because I kept thinking, “What’s wrong with me, why couldn’t I make this work?”‘
She kept the details of her first meeting with Joe vague – saying only that they had met once before they officially went on a ‘blind date’, but making clear that their relationship started after her divorce.
Speaking out: Bill and Jill officially divorced in 1975, however he told DailyMail.com exclusively in August that he first suspected his wife was romantically involved with Joe in August 1974
‘And then… just unexpectedly, I met Joe and I had met him once before but it was kind of a blind date when he called me,’ she said.
However her account of how, and more importantly when, her relationship with Joe began directly contradicts that of her ex-husband, who told DailyMail.com exclusively in August 2020 that he believes the couple became romantically involved months before he and Jill divorced.
Bill said that he and Jill first met Joe when the then-New Castle County Councilman was campaigning for a Senate seat – a campaign to which Bill donated $10,900.
At the time, Joe was married to his first wife Neilia, who died in a car crash not long after.
Bill first suspected that Joe and Jill were having an affair in August 1974, months before his divorce, saying: ‘I asked Jill to leave the house, which she did. Her father was begging me to take her back when he found out what was going on. He asked me to give her a second chance, but I wasn’t interested.
‘I considered Joe a friend. I’m not surprised he fell in love with Jill. Everyone who meets Jill falls in love with her immediately. It’s hard not to.’
When speaking to Kelly, Jill did not make any suggestion that her relationship with Joe started before the end of her marriage, saying that she ‘wouldn’t have met Joe’ had she not gone through a divorce.
‘I look back on it now and I think, if I hadn’t gotten divorced, I wouldn’t have met Joe, I wouldn’t have the beautiful family I have now,’ she told Kelly – who is herself going through a divorce from ex-partner Brandon Blackstock.
New beginning: The professor joked that she only agreed to marry Joe because she ‘fell in love’ with his sons Hunter and Beau, whose mother was Joe’s late first wife Neilia
Family: Jill, pictured with Joe, their daughter Ashley, Hunter and Beau said she is grateful for her ‘beautiful family’ – which only happened as a result of her divorce
‘So I really think things happen for the best. And I think over time, I don’t know how long it’s been for you, over time you heal.’
That line almost exactly parroted what Bill told DailyMail.com last August, when he said: ‘I’m not bitter because, if it wasn’t for my divorce, I would never have met my wife Linda and she’s the greatest thing in my life,’ he said.
Jill and Joe have often publicly stated that they began dating more than 40 years ago after falling in love on a blind date.
When approached on Wednesday, Bill said he did not wish to comment on his ex’s latest claims about the end of their marriage.
He has a book due out this spring that he has promised will go into greater detail about the split.
Speaking from his Wilmington Delaware home last year, the 72-year-old told DailyMail.com: ‘I don’t want to hurt anyone. But the facts are the facts and what happened, happened.’
But the way the Bidens tell their love story, Joe saw a picture of Jill in March 1975 — after her marriage had crashed.
She was in an advertisement for local parks that he saw while passing through Wilmington Airport with his brother Frank. He told Frank that was the kind of girl he would like to date and Frank said: ‘Why don’t you then? I know her,’ and passed on her number, according to Jill’s 2019 autobiography Where The Light Enters.
Speaking about her decision to marry Joe – who proposed to her five times before she said yes – Jill joked that she only agreed because she ‘fell in love’ with his two sons with late wife Neilia, Hunter and Beau.
Heartbreak: Speaking about the death of her stepson Beau from cancer in 2015, Jill admitted that she lost her faith because she truly believed that ‘God would let him live’
Looking ahead: Jill (pictured in church in Wisconsin in 2020) credited a fellow churchgoer with helping to restore her faith, revealing the unnamed woman became her ‘prayer partner’
‘I love those boys so much and I tell Joe that was the reason I married him, because I fell in love with the boys,’ she told Kelly.
The First Lady also opened up about her spiritual struggle in the wake of Beau’s death from cancer in 2015, explaining that she lost faith in God after he passed away at the age of 46 because she had ‘prayed and prayed’ for his recovery, and truly felt that he would be spared.
‘I prayed so hard every single day that he was going to live and I felt like he was such a special person that God would let him live,’ she said.
‘I just prayed and prayed and it just wasn’t meant to be. When we lost Beau it was hard for me to keep my faith because I had believed so strongly in prayer and that he would make it.’
Jill explained that it wasn’t until a year ago that she began to rediscover her faith, revealing that she only did so with the help of a fellow churchgoer who asked to be her ‘prayer partner’.
‘It took me a long time,’ she explained. ‘We were in a church just a year ago and Beau’s been gone almost six years, and a woman came up to me in the church and she said, “Jill, I want to be your prayer partner.” And I said, “Prayer partner?” I hadn’t even heard of a prayer partner.’
The woman – whom Jill did not name – began phoning, emailing and texting Jill a few times a week, with the First Lady crediting the prayer sessions for helping her to ‘find her faith again’.
‘It was like God was saying to me, “OK Jill, you’ve had time, time to come back.” I felt like that was a gift that she gave to me,’ she recalled.
Sneak peek: Kelly’s interview with Jill took place in the East Room of the White House, however the First Lady gave her a tour of the property after their sit-down
Tradition: Jill said that she and Joe are adjusting well to life in the White House, revealing that they still make a point of eating dinner together every night
Furry friends: The first couple’s German Shepherds Champ (right) and Major (left) also got to enjoy a few minutes of fame on camera
Despite life in the White House being much busier both for Joe and Jill, she revealed that the couple is still doing their best to maintain family traditions – like Sunday night dinners, which have long been a staple part of the Biden schedule.
Similarly, Jill and Joe still endeavor to eat dinner together every night – during which time they turn off their phones and simply spend time ‘talking for a while’.
‘He’s so busy, I’m so busy, but we do have dinner together,’ she said. ‘[There are] no phones, the phones have to be off.
‘And we have dinner in this beautiful home, and there’s a fireplace in the dining room and we light the fire and we sit and talk for a while. And then he has to go back to work late into the night, and I’m grading papers.’
Jill gave some insight into the goals she hopes to accomplish during her time as First Lady – noting that helping to get the US through the pandemic is her top priority, particularly when it comes to the mental health and safety of children.
‘It has been so tough, and I see it in my own classroom, on Zoom of course, it’s been really hard for teachers and parents and kids,’ she said.
‘I think that we’re all struggling and I think when we get back into the classroom, mental health is going to be a big issue. We have to help heal these kids. Kids have been dealing with food insecurity, domestic violence, child abuse, so many things that they are going to be bringing back with them into the classroom.
‘Teachers are going to need help. That’s one of the things I love about Joe, I love about those dinners at night, I can say, “Joe, we need this. You have got to do this. We’re counting on you the teachers are counting on you.”‘
Similarly, the First Lady expressed concern over the pressure that has been placed on mothers during the pandemic, saying that COVID has ‘really exacerbated everything that moms have to handle’.
She was full of praise for her husband’s handling of the pandemic thus far – and believes that Joe’s presidency has already provided relief for many Americans, revealing that ‘so many people’ have told her that they feel like ‘they can breathe’ and that there is ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
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