Right-wing media push Trump campaign’s false claim of a Biden “gaffe” — and NBC News falls for it

Biden said “George” because he was speaking to comedian and campaign supporter George Lopez

The Trump campaign and right-wing media are running with an accusation that Democraric presidential nominee Joe Biden slipped up during an online campaign event, referring to President Donald Trump as “George.” But it’s not true. As Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted, Biden was speaking to comedian George Lopez, who was co-hosting the online event.

Weigel posted a more complete clip on Twitter, showing that Lopez had just asked Biden a question, to which Biden had responded, in part: “Four more years of — George, George, we’re going to find ourselves in a position where if Trump gets elected, we’re going to be in a different world.”

The Trump campaign’s latest attack on Biden got picked up by Fox News, the New York Post, Newsweek, Breitbart, The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller, and John Solomon’s Just the News. The Daily Mail also tweeted a claim that Jill Biden was whispering “Trump” under her breath, based on nothing more than that she slightly opened her mouth. (Ironically, the Daily Mail’s embedded video that would supposedly prove this allegation did not have any audio track on it.)

One example of a mainstream outlet that actually took the bait was NBC’s Today show, during which NBC White House correspondent Krister Welker said in a news report that Biden made “headlines overnight after appearing to confuse his opponent’s name.” She also added, “It comes as the former vice president was pressed to respond to the president’s claims that Biden is not mentally fit to serve.”

Predictably, the Trump campaign tweeted the NBC clip and declared that “even the TODAY Show had to cover” the story.

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Citation From the October 26, 2020, edition of NBC News’ Today

Fox News has mentioned the story throughout Monday, ranging from its opinion hosts and commentators to its official “news” side. It began in the opening block of Fox & Friends, with co-host Steve Doocy saying that Biden “did appear to call President Trump George twice before getting back on track..” This was soon followed by an exchange between co-host Brian Kilmeade and Jessica Anderson of the right-wing Heritage Action.

Later in the program, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich asserted that Biden was “a presidential candidate who cannot remember that his opponent is Donald and is somehow, I guess, flashing back to either ‘92 or 2000, or something, and thinks he’s running against ones of the Bushes.”

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Citation From the October 26, 2020, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

This talking point extended further to Fox’s “news” side, with America’s Newsroom co-anchor Trace Gallagher asserting that Biden was “mistaking President Trump for George Bush,” to which Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins saying that “gaffes aren't anything new to Joe Biden.”

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Citation From the October 26, 2020, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

One source of Biden’s verbal slip-ups over his decades-long political career is a childhood stutter that he overcame, but which right-wing media outlets have variously mocked or denied to depict him as now being in mental decline.