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?”