The Wild Way Elizabeth Holmes And Theranos Tricked Joe Biden

The story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, the medical company that was supposed to change the world, continues to fascinate audiences, especially with the recent trial of Theranos' chief operating officer Sunny Balwani and hit shows like Hulu's "The Dropout." But despite all of the exposés, shows, and podcasts, one of the biggest questions followers of the case have is how Holmes and Balwani were able to fool so many people.

After all, the two managed to hoodwink some of the biggest names in the political and investment world — including former President Bill Clinton, NewsCorp owner Rupert Murdoch, Henry Kissinger, and James "Mad Dog" Mattis (per the Associated Press).

However, one of the most audacious stunts perpetrated by Holmes and Balwani involved then-Vice President Joe Biden. Biden was scheduled to take a tour of Theranos' facility in July 2015. Since so much of Theranos' success rested on its reputation, Holmes and Balwani were desperate to get Biden's endorsement — and the good press that would come with it.

Fake it till you make it

To guarantee then-Vice President Joe Biden's endorsement, Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani decided to pull off a wild stunt: giving Biden a tour of a completely fake, staged lab. This would allow them to create a space that fit with the futuristic vision they were selling.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Holmes and Balwani chose a room that was occupied by a microbiology team to be their fake lab. The team was instructed to vacate the room just days before the visit. During that time, Holmes and Balwani repainted the room and lined its shelves with miniLab machines. Ironically, the devices had to be imported from one of their other facilities, since they were not used in the location Biden was going to tour (per "Bad Blood" by John Carreyrou).

Later, Theranos tweeted a photo of Holmes showing Biden the lab. In the picture, the two are walking down a row of cubicles, with a neatly numbered machine in each spot. Biden points at one of the devices, while an oversized Theranos banner serves as the backdrop.

Did Biden's seal of approval forward Theranos' scam?

Unsurprisingly, the former vice president was impressed with his tour.

"You can see what innovation is all about just walking through this facility," Joe Biden said at the time, per CBS News

"Talk about being inspired. This is inspiration," Biden continued, according to statements provided by Theranos at the time (via USA Today).

Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani also seemed pleased with the tour, and the official Theranos Twitter account tweeted about Biden's visit around 14 times in the space of 48 hours. One tweet even quoted Biden describing how Theranos' facility was " the laboratory of the future."

However, while it is possible that Biden's support of Theranos might have buoyed the company's reputation in the short term, it ended up having dire consequences for Holmes and Balwani. During the time of Biden's visit, John Carreyrou, an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal, had been working on an exposé of the shady dealings of the company. After Biden's visit, Carreyrou confronted his editor and asked for his report to be published sooner than planned (per "Bad Blood"). 

Though his editor protested, citing the need to have more ironclad evidence, he did compromise with Carreyrou, and the duo decided that the exposé would run no later than October 2015. The article was eventually published on October 15, and was the catalyst for Holmes and Balwani's downfall.