Trump absurdly claimed that Joe Biden's press conference was scripted, and Fox News followed right along

The morning after Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden held a press conference, President Donald Trump baselessly asserted that Biden had been reading pre-written answers off of a teleprompter and, therefore, he had been given questions in advance by the media. While Trump’s claim is unsubstantiated, it was subsequently pushed on Fox News.

Following Biden’s press conference on Tuesday, Trump’s online defenders rushed to discredit the presumptive Democratic nominee, accusing the media of helping Biden by asking “softball” questions and attacking Biden’s mental capabilities -- a common line of attack from Trump and his supporters that even made it into a question (from a Fox News reporter) at the press conference.

Some also latched on to the fact that Biden had a list of reporters to call on as evidence that the media and Biden had prepared for the press conference in some sort of inappropriate way. This criticism snowballed in some circles of the internet into the false conspiracy theory that Biden had been given questions in advance and was reading pre-written answers off of the teleprompter. 

Jim Hoft of the fringe right-wing site The Gateway Pundit posted a confusing article claiming that “the entire show was staged” and used “pre-planned questions,” declaring that the press conference was “all pre-planned and likely rehearsed” based on an offhand comment from Biden asking who he should call on next. Soon, Trump’s son Eric tweeted that “press conferences with preapproved puppet journalists, pre-screened questions and teleprompters don’t count.” Roughly 20 minutes later, the president himself tweeted that Biden “was given the questions” and “read the answers from a teleprompter.” 

In the latest turn of the Trump-Fox News feedback loop -- and a preview of right-wing media's playbook as election season kicks into high gear -- the “teleprompter” talking point was then elevated by the president’s favorite network. A few hours after Trump’s tweet, Fox News anchor Melissa Francis floated the idea that the Biden press conference was rigged, asking, “Did he have the questions ahead of time?”

Video file

Citation From the July 1, 2020, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY (FOX BUSINESS HOST): The president is in some deep yogurt right now in terms of poll numbers and key battleground states. And Joe Biden, he didn't screw up, and most importantly he's not Hillary Clinton. So what can the debate do for the tenor of this race? 

MELISSA FRANCIS (CO-HOST): Well, so if you were watching yesterday, I want to make sure I get this exactly right. He said that he wants to "stop appealing to the, uh," and he sort of paused for a very long period of time, and was trying to figure out how he was going to finish that sentence, and he said "less healthy side of society." He also said, "who was I supposed to call on next?" I was watching this thing because it's -- it's hard to watch these things, because you get so bored. You want to just watch the clips afterwards because it's so slow and he speaks so slow and there's so much stumbling. But I forced myself and it was kind of amazing, because it was -- I mean he -- his eyes were kind of empty, and who was he supposed to call on next? I mean, did he have the questions ahead of time and he sort of had an order of people? The gym was nearly empty when you saw the whole thing, no one asked him about the Flynn thing where he had lied to George Stephanopoulos and then he tried to kind of clean it up, no one asked him about CHOP, no one asked him about defunding the police. So if I'm Donald Trump watching this, I can't wait for the debate.