Joe Biden has been the subject of countless news stories, and the focus on POTUS 46 has only intensified since his inauguration. From Biden’s relationship with Kamala Harris to his tragic life story, his happy marriage, and beyond, no stone has been left unturned when it comes to the father of four. In fact, there are very few secrets left about Joe Biden, but that’s not the case when it comes to his younger sister — and favorite sibling — Valerie Biden Owens.
You may not recognize her name or know much about her, but Owens has an equally noteworthy life story, both personal and professional. She’s been right by her big brother’s side for decades (you may have even spotted her on the campaign trail without realizing it!) and has played an instrumental — if underrated — role in many of his successes. By being reluctant about granting interviews of her own, Owens has managed to keep most of the ups and downs she’s faced to herself, but we’ve done some major digging to uncover the surprising facts you need to know. This is the untold truth of Valerie Biden Owens.
Valerie Biden Owens is Joe Biden’s ‘best friend’
Joe Biden was three years old when he got a little sister and his life changed forever. As he wrote in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep, Valerie Biden Owens is his "best friend" — and the feeling is mutual. In 2008, Owens gushed (via The New York Times), "He’s been my best friend all my life" and later told PBS’ Frontline, "From the time that I was a little girl, my big brother Joey took me with him wherever he went […] I was fast and furious, keeping up with him." Owens also told AP in 2020 that "from the time I can remember, I opened my eyes, and he was there. He put out his hand and said, ‘Come on, Val. We’ve got things to do and people to see and places to go.’ And off we went."
As The Washington Post noted, even with the arrival of two younger brothers, Jim and Frank, the "personal partnership" between Owens and Biden couldn’t be broken, and it’s intact to this day. While Biden once proclaimed that his sister "has not only believed in me, she has helped me believe in myself," Owens gushed, "Joe and I tend to think along the same lines. Nine out of 10 times, we have the same intuitive reaction to things." Vogue even went as far as to call her "the Joe Biden whisperer."
Valerie Biden Owens believes Joe Biden’s stutter was ‘a great gift’
Joe Biden has made no secret of his lifelong stutter while encouraging those suffering from the affliction to persevere. In 2019, for example, he tweeted how "growing up with a stutter, my parents taught me from a young age that being different is no barrier to success." And during a 2020 CNN town hall, he admitted that he still stutters "occasionally, when I find myself really tired," adding, "It has nothing to do with your intelligence quotient."
In addition to his parents, Biden also received plenty of support from Valerie Biden Owens who, according to The Washington Post, helped him work through it, even though, as she told PBS‘ Frontline, she didn’t even realize he stuttered until she "got into fourth or fifth grade." Noting that she’s "very certain that his stuttering really chiseled who he is," Owens argued that "because of it, he developed a backbone of steel and became a little boy of courage, and a little boy with a great deal of empathy."
Sharing a similar sentiment to AP, Owens admitted that Biden "was bullied" and that "the stutter at the time was horrible for him." Nevertheless, Owens calls it "a great gift, because he did not let the stuttering define him. He did not let somebody else’s opinion of him and description of him as a lesser person define him," she elaborated.
Her parents taught her a life-changing lesson early on
If there’s one major trait that Valerie Biden Owens shares with big brother Joe Biden it’s their commitment to perseverance, and always taking the high road. As Owens told AP in 2020, their "family code" has always dictated that "it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up." She added, "And you don’t get up by stepping on somebody else’s face or kicking them in the back. You get back up on your own power."
Owens also spoke of that notion, which she called "the doctrine of resilience," with PBS’ Frontline, revealing how her mother taught all four of her kids "that failure would happen in everyone’s life, but giving up was unforgivable." Asked to define "the Biden way," she also shared how her parents put great emphasis on respect, saying, "Mom and Dad told us that the most important thing in life was family and that it was our job to take care of each other." She continued, "My mom would always say to us that ‘There’s nobody better than you, but you’re no better than anybody else.’ So we had to treat people with dignity."
Not running Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign was ‘frustrating’
Valerie Biden Owens has been an integral part of Joe Biden’s political career. As The New York Times notes, their collaboration began when she managed his campaign for high school class president and never stopped. As deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told BuzzFeed News in 2020, Owens "is kind of the connective tissue throughout the course of the campaigns from ’72 to today."
From Biden’s 1970 run for New Castle County Council to his ’88 presidential bid, Owens has been by her brother’s side for over 50 years, and it hasn’t been easy. Remembering Biden’s ’72 U.S. Senate run, Owens recalled (via BuzzFeed News) how folks "did believe at the time […] that a woman’s role in a campaign was to open and close the headquarters and to get coffee." But as Ted Kaufman, who has worked with Biden since the ’70s, said in his Oral History Interviews, she was made for the role. "Valerie had been a top student at the University of Delaware. She’d been homecoming queen. She was an absolutely incredible person," he gushed. "Valerie was absolutely incredible in running his campaign."
The 2020 election marked the first time that Owens had no official role, and it took some adjusting. As she said (via BuzzFeed News), "I have been his campaign manager since high school — class president. This is the first time I haven’t managed the campaign, and I want to tell you, it’s damn frustrating!"
Valerie Biden Owens swears Jill Biden made her brother ‘come alive again’
One of Valerie Biden Owens’ first major wins as Joe Biden’s campaign manager was helping her 29-year-old brother win a seat in the US Senate in 1972. But rather than celebrating, the family was struck a major blow when Biden’s wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi "died instantly" in a car crash while sons "Beau and Hunter were seriously injured." As Owens told PBS’ Frontline, it was Dec. 18 when she "got a call from Jimmy Biden, and he said, ‘Come home, now. There’s been an accident.’" Neilia and the kids were driving home from buying a Christmas tree when their car "was hit broadside by a tractor-trailer." Owens recalled having to lie to her brother as they rushed home from the Russell Senate Office Building. "On the way out the building, my brother looked at me and said, ‘She’s dead, isn’t she?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, Joey.’ I did know. Jimmy told me," she admitted.
Biden was "a man with a broken heart," but that changed when Jill Jacobs came along. "As a sister, I saw my brother come alive again," Owens said, calling her sister-in-law "a gift to my brother. He fell in love with her very quickly, and she fell in love with my brother," she continued, adding, "She made my brother whole." Owens also shared how Neilia’s "were tough shoes to fill. But Jill filled them with grace, without skipping a beat."
Valerie Owens quit her job to help Joe Biden raise his kids
Following the tragic loss of his wife and daughter in 1972, U.S. Senator-Elect Joe Biden considered dropping out of the Senate, but Valerie Biden Owens wouldn’t allow it. According to The New York Times, Owens quit her job teaching social studies at Wilmington Friends School and moved in with Biden for four years to help raise Beau and Hunter. As Biden wrote in his memoir, Promises to Keep, "she was the cornerstone that allowed me to sustain and then rebuild my family." He continued, "She did the cooking, the shopping, the laundry, and the driving. And while I was in Washington or on the road, Val was there every day." As Senator Chris Coons told The New York Times, "Val was the critical anchor who helped Joe decide he was going to remain in the Senate, and to decide he was going to go on with life."
Despite major changes happening in her own life, her commitment to Biden and the kids never faltered. As The New York Times notes, she got divorced, remarried, and had her oldest daughter, Missy, while living with her brother. As she once quipped, the experience "was a gift" because she "got to practice on Beau and Hunter before I screwed up my own kids." And she never saw raising her nephews as a sacrifice. "That was nothing heroic," she said humbly, adding, "It was exactly what my brother would have done for me. It was called family."
Valerie Biden Owens met her husband through Joe Biden
In the mid-1970s, Valerie Biden Owens went through a major upheaval in her personal life. Initially married to Bruce Saunders (who, according to The New York Times, "handled the budget" for Joe Biden’s 1972 US Senate run), Owens and her first husband moved in with Biden and put on a brave face but, as The Washington Post notes, their "marriage was fraying." The pair divorced and Owens soon found love again with Biden’s best friend from law school: John T. Owens. In 1975, she said "I do" to the businessman and lawyer, took his last name, and had him move into Joe Biden’s home. Per The New York Times, they didn’t move out on their own until two years later when Biden married Jill Jacobs. By then, they had already had a daughter and now have three kids: Valerie James Owens, Cuffe Biden Owens, and Catherine Eugenia Owens.
The fact that Owens was introduced to her husband by her brother comes as no surprise since Biden has always been involved in his sister’s love life. As The New York Times reports, he had something to say about all of her potential boyfriends while at the University of Delaware. "If there was any guy he knew, I couldn’t go out with him because he knew the son of a gun," Owens recalled. "And any guy he didn’t know, I couldn’t go out with because he didn’t know the son of the gun."
Valerie Biden Owens’ career is as impressive as her brother’s
Although Valerie Biden Owens told PBS’ Frontline that she "wasn’t building a résumé for a political future," but merely "building the campaign for Joe" when she put her job on hold to help Joe Biden run for the US Senate in 1972, she’s managed to do just that. Owens’ résumé includes many impressive political positions, including, as her official bio states, being "one of the first women in the United States to have managed a modern U.S. Senatorial campaign, as well as a Presidential campaign."
In addition to working on her brother’s campaigns, Owens is the vice-chair of the Biden Foundation and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware, is a partner at Owens Patrick Leadership Seminars, was appointed to the MGM Public Policy Institute Advisory Board at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and more. Her many achievements also include impressive keynote addresses at Harvard Law School and around the world, plus being chosen to serve as the Alternate Representative of the United States to the 71st Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations by President Obama.
As The New York Times notes, Owens also had a lengthy career as executive vice president of Joe Slade White & CO, a consulting firm "marketing candidates in dozens of national races." She was hired following Biden’s 1996 U.S. Senate run and stayed with the company until its dissolution in 2016.
She has sparked multiple fake news stories
Valerie Biden Owens may not be in the spotlight as much as her brother, but that hasn’t made her immune from becoming the subject of fake news stories. In December 2020, Reuters published a "fact check," clarifying that "Joe Biden’s sister is not married to Dominion Voting Systems’ owner” after multiple social media posts alleged that Owens’ husband was Stephen Owens. That Owens is the owner of Dominion Voting Systems, which sells "end-to-end election solutions," including voting hardware and software. One Facebook post even showed a photo of Joe Biden with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and said the latter was actually "his brother-in-law Stephen D Owens owner of Dominion voting system!" Owens’ husband is actually John T. Owens, "an attorney and businessman," as stated on her website.
Around the same time, speculation also began that Owens would receive an office in the West Wing following her brother’s inauguration, but Daily Mail set the record straight in January 2021 when a White House spokesperson told the outlet that "Valerie will have no formal role and no West Wing office." And while Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen did add that "Valerie is the President’s oldest and closest political advisor [and] that will never change," she conceded that Owens "is the first to know that his role is different now and so is hers."
How much is Valerie Biden Owens worth?
While there is no clear consensus on Valerie Biden Owens’ net worth, some sites have placed it at between $3 and $5 million as of 2020. That figure becomes all the more impressive when you consider the fact that Joe Biden estimated net worth is $9 million — not that much more.
Looking at a breakdown of various publicly known fees and payouts Owens has received over the years points to the fact that a net worth in the low millions is not a far stretch. For example, The New York Times reported how a four-month stint as an alternate representative to the United Nations under President Obama paid her "about $26,000." The outlet also points out that Owens has a minimum speaking fee of $40,000 and cites how she was paid $51,286 in salary for Biden’s 2002 campaign alone. What’s more, while working for media consulting firm Joe Slade White & Co., the company was paid "about $1.6 million" by the 2008 Biden campaign (although Owens made it clear that she "took a leave" from the company at that time).
And while it’s unclear how much Joe Biden has paid his sister over the years, a 2008 report published by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ranked Biden as the fourth senator "paying the most money in salaries or fees to family members," noting how he paid a combined $54,904.78 to Owens and her daughter, Catherine.