A misleading clip of the Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been gaining exposure over the past few days. On September 15, Biden was interviewed by Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. During the interview, Biden took virtual questions via a TV monitor and then proceeded to respond to them. One such exchange was clipped out of context by right-wing media personalities and amplified on social media to give the false impression that Biden was using a teleprompter to answer questions.
President Donald Trump’s campaign has been attacking Biden for using a teleprompter and suggesting that he uses one for interviews. In this case, the fake controversy began when Grabien founder Tom Elliot tweeted a cropped clip of Biden’s Telemundo interview and baselessly asked, “José, was he reading his responses?” Elliot’s clip, however, does not include essential context to the exchange. In the full video, Biden is seen clearly responding to a question being asked on a nearby TV monitor. The edited clip does not include the question so as to make it appear as if Biden is reading off a teleprompter.
The edited clip was picked up by white nationalist commentator Ian Miles Cheong, who recently hyped vigilante justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin (Cheong was also a key person in spreading a debunked claim about Bibles being burnt by protesters in Oregon).
Trump’s son Eric Trump retweeted one version with the caption “Unreal!” Trump’s version falsely claimed Biden said “Ok, I lost that line” whereas Diaz-Balart clarified that Biden actually said “I lost the lady,” as in the questioner he was responding to. Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller retweeted Trump with the caption “He’s not even pretending to look at the interviewer!” The Florida Republican Party’s official Twitter account tweeted another version of the edited clip, asking why Biden is “having problems reading his teleprompter.”
Diaz-Balart unequivocally stated that Biden was not using a teleprompter and was merely answering questions from an off-camera monitor. Telemundo called the edited video “false” and stated that it has “never allowed someone who is being interviewed” to use a teleprompter. CNN’s Daniel Dale responded to Trump’s misleading tweet, saying, “Biden was NOT using a teleprompter” and it is “completely obvious if you watch the interview.” The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel stated that Biden was merely answering a voter on a monitor and “it wasn’t a teleprompter.”
As we’ve seen in so many circumstances, it is easy for misleadingly edited videos and false information to get amplified on social media. By the time they can be debunked, it is often too late and the damage has been done. In this particular case, The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo pointed out that “you don’t even need fakes” on social media; “you just need Eric Trump.”