White House Attacks “Cheap Fake” Joe Biden Videos As They Spread Across Right Wing Media And Parrot Donald Trump’s Talking Points (Analysis)

The White House in the past week has railed against so-called “cheap fakes,” videos edited to look as if President Joe Biden has “frozen” or was wandering away at major public events, while media outlets amplifying the moments have done little to add context.

The videos include one at a D-Day ceremony earlier this month, another at a Juneteenth ceremony last week and still another the G7 summit Thursday. The latest to go viral is a video at the end of Biden’s star-filled Los Angeles re-election fundraiser over the weekend.

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As the moments have spread beyond RNC Research talking points to right-wing media figures and some mainstream outlets, White House and campaign officials have pushed back at the videos as edited, cropped or missing a larger context.

“They are cheap fake videos, they are done in bad faith, and some of your news organizations have been very clear, have stressed that some of these right wing critics of the president have a credibility problem because fact checkers have repeatedly caught them pushing misinformation,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

Biden’s age is an issue in the election — as is Trump’s. For a third cycle in a row, whoever wins in November will be the oldest person elected to the White House. Yet in part because of a stiff gait and a stutter, as well as some other moments, Biden’s age has been of far greater focus of the mainstream press than his rival.

But the “cheap fake” videos have gained traction in outlets like the New York Post and in stories by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which have framed them as if parroted from Trump’s campaign. Biden’s age and acuity has long been the focus of the GOP’s narratives, as way back in 2020, Trump’s campaign was referring to his rival as a “rotting corpse.”

The cheap fake videos are in contrast to deepfakes, in that they use traditional editing techniques, trimming or cropping away a few moments to tie into a group’s own chosen narrative. Deepfakes, meanwhile, use AI technology to do so.

The D-Day video showed Biden at the Normandy anniversary ceremony, briefly pausing in the midst of sitting down in a chair on stage. After the RNC blasted out the moment as “awkward,” other social media users seized on the moment as showing the president trying to take his seat in an invisible chair. A story from Sinclair Broadcast Group’s National Desk went out with the headline, “Biden appears to have trouble sitting down during D-Day remembrance event.” The story included the RNC Research X/Twitter post, as the author of the story noted, “Biden’s strange stooping motion caused several terms to trend on X including ‘diaper,’ ‘pooping’ and ‘pooped.’ ”

While the Sinclair piece did mention White House spokesperson Andrew Bates’ pushback — he called it “false” and “politically motivated” — the story did not mention or feature a longer version of the video of the moment. That clip was much more unremarkable, as it showed Biden pausing for a couple seconds and he was about to sit down, then taking his seat as an announcer introduced Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The Juneteenth video also was flagged by RNC Research and was quickly picked up by media personalities on the right. The video that circulated showed Biden standing still and smiling at the White House’s Juneteenth celebration last week, listening to a performance on the South Lawn as Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and others clapped and swayed to the beat around him. “President Biden appears to freeze at White House Juneteenth event,” read a story on FoxNews.com, which compared it to two occasions when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell froze in front of reporters. At the White House today, Jean-Pierre said, “The President stood there listening to the music and he didn’t dance. Excuse me, I did not know not dancing was a health issue.”

The G7 video, also posted by RNC Research, drew millions of views for its claim that it showed Biden wandering off as other world leaders watched a skydiving demonstration. In fact, that video appeared to be cropped. A different, wider angle showed that Biden was speaking and congratulating another skydiver.

The New York Post blasted out a story and, while it included a White House rebuttal, that didn’t stop the News Corp. publication from featuring the moment on its front page the next day, with the headline, “Meander In Chief.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group also reported on the video, noting that he was approaching the skydiver, but the outlet still described it as an example where the president “appeared to wander away” and that the moment followed “a string of strange incidents for Biden.” The story then referenced previous moments, including that he appeared “dazed” and the RNC event and of the D-Day sitting incident.

Progressive newsletter author Judd Legum of Popular Information noted that the Sinclair stories were syndicated to at least 86 local news websites, many of them affiliates of major broadcast networks, and ones that purport to be merely just-the-facts offerings of breaking news and features. A Sinclair spokesperson told Legum, “It is evident that you are promoting a specific agenda regarding Sinclair, a false narrative you continue to push irrespective of the facts.” Sinclair did report today on the White House pushback on the videos. A Sinclair spokesperson noted that they “regularly do pieces on the White House in defense of Biden and his administration” — including one on the Transgender Day of Visibility — and said that the G7 story was “recapping the social/viral videos making headlines.”

What is more open to interpretation was a video of Biden and former President Barack Obama at the Los Angeles fundraiser on Saturday. Taken at the end of the event, the clip showed moderator Jimmy Kimmel, Biden and Obama waving at the crowd at the Peacock Theater. The president turned to face another section of the audience and, about six seconds later, Obama took his arm, then put it around Biden’s shoulder and they walked offstage.

The New York Post pegged the moment as another example of the president freezing up, while figures like Piers Morgan and Geraldo Rivera took it as another example of the president’s feebleness.

The White House and the campaign slammed that reporting, though. Rather than freezing, Biden was “taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds,” according to Bates, while Jean-Pierre said that the moment showed the president and his predecessor’s friendship and that they are “like family to each other. And I think that’s what you saw.” A longer version of the moment bolsters that point.

The moment became the subject of some debate on X/Twitter, and the Biden campaign got some assist from Mark Cuban, who responded to Morgan’s post and another from Bill Ackman by writing, “BOTH CANDIDATES ARE OLD. VERY OLD. They both are going to have senior moments, mis-remember, forget things and have physical frailties. I’ll tell you a not so secret secret: One is great at soundbites, but also thinks in soundbites. The other is awful at soundbites, but thinks in complete sentences. Voters will decide which we prefer.”

In amplifying the videos to their own narrative, Trump and his allies may be influencing voters’ decisions. But they also may be lowering expectations for Biden for a moment likely to really matter: Just over a week away, viewers will be able to judge for themselves, live and unedited, how mentally fit Biden and Trump are, as they meet for the first presidential debate June 27.

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