Posts miscaption videos of Biden's NATO remarks

Conservative critics of Joe Biden are claiming the US president, already facing mounting pressure to drop his reelection bid after a shaky debate performance highlighted his age, insulted outgoing NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and his wife at the alliance's summit in Washington. This is false; the Democrat did not use a slur or boast of having sex with Stoltenberg's spouse but said the former displayed "intellectual rigor" and that he had been "talking" to the latter.

"Joe Biden calls the Secretary of NATO an 'intellectual wigger,'" says a July 9, 2024 post on X from commentator Benny Johnson, who has previously spread misinformation.

<span>Screenshot from X taken July 10, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken July 10, 2024

The term "wigger" is offensive slang combining the word "white" with a racial slur for Black people to describe "a usually young white person whose clothing, language, and mannerisms are regarded as imitative of those stereotypically associated with African-Americans," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Similar posts shared the same 12-second clip across X, while other Biden opponents zeroed in on a separate moment from his remarks kicking off the meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's member countries in Washington.

"Biden: 'I realized I was fvckin' (sic) your wife?'" says one such post from "Wall Street Silver," another X user AFP has repeatedly fact-checked.

<span>Screenshot from X taken July 10, 2024</span>
Screenshot from X taken July 10, 2024

The claims targeting Biden come as the incumbent and his reelection campaign have scrambled to reassure voters and Democratic lawmakers that he is capable of beating Republican ex-president Donald Trump in November, following a halting debate that escalated concerns about his age and prompted calls for him to abandon the race -- including from actor and leading Democratic supporter George Clooney.

Biden has managed a stutter since childhood and has a history of verbal gaffes. But the posts do not accurately represent what he said at the summit.

The quotes in question came as Biden honored Stoltenberg, who has served as secretary general of the Western political and military alliance for a decade and will be replaced by former Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in October, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Footage shows that as Biden welcomed the former Norwegian prime minister, he called him "a man of integrity and intellectual rigor" and recalled "talking to" his wife about extending his tenure at the helm of the alliance (archived here).

The official White House transcript of the July 9 event bears that out (archived here).

"NATO is an alliance of nations but also made up of leaders," Biden said, according to the video and transcript. "And one person in particular has done an extraordinary job leading NATO for the last decade: Secretary-General Stoltenberg."

He continued: "So much of the progress we've made in the Alliance is thanks to the secretary. He's a man of integrity and intellectual rigor, a calm temperament in a moment of crisis, a consummate diplomat who works with leaders across the political spectrum and always finds a way to keep us moving forward.

"Mr. Secretary, you've guided this alliance through one of the most consequential periods in its history. I realize -- as I was talking to your wife -- I personally asked you to extend your service. Forgive me. And you put your own plans on hold. When the Russian war on Ukraine began, you didn't hesitate. Today, NATO is stronger, smarter and more energized than when you began."

During a forum with Stoltenberg the following day, Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, quoted Biden as calling the NATO leader a man of "intellectual rigor" while posing a question (archived here). Reports from US media including CNN and Axios also characterized Biden's remarks similarly.

AFP contacted the White House for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has previously debunked other misinformation about US politics -- including prior posts misrepresenting Biden's words -- here.