Republicans Target Biden Over His Age With Deceptive Videos

Republicans Target Biden Over His Age With Deceptive Videos

Swing voters indicate they may not vote for President Joe Biden because he is too old and incompetent. That narrative is already widely believed — but as Republicans try to add fuel to the fire, they have resorted to spreading deceptively edited videos to make Biden appear incapacitated, confused, and incapable.  

In recent days, you may have seen videos on social media claiming to depict Biden aimlessly wandering off from world leaders viewing a skydiving demonstration at this year’s G7 summit, or attempting to sit in an invisible chair. 

Many of the clips that went viral, some of which racked up millions of impressions, were quickly found to have been deceptively edited. As legitimate concerns over the 2024 candidates’ age clash with a media ecosystem rife with misinformation, the use of what experts call “cheap fakes” is becoming increasingly common. 

According to the Media Manipulation Casebook, a project of the now-dissolved Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, a cheap fake is “altered media that has been changed through conventional and affordable technology. Social media examples of cheap fake techniques include photoshopping (including face swapping), lookalikes, as well as speeding and slowing video.” On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary used the term to describe the series of viral clips as “cheap fakes video” that are “done in bad faith.” 

Dr. Joan Donovan, a digital extremism and misinformation expert, coined the term in 2019 alongside her colleague Britt Paris. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Donovan explained that the term “reminds us that we’re living in a society that is mediated by digital images. And those images, depending on how they’re framed or played back, can be very deceiving.” 

The deceptive video of Biden walking away from world leaders was boosted by the Republican National Committee, which wrote “WHAT IS BIDEN DOING?” as a caption on a tweet that now has over 3.5 million impressions. Former President Donald Trump’s campaign described it as “Crooked Joe Biden’s cognitive decline on full display at the G7 Summit.” The New York Post dubbed him the “Meanderer In Chief.” 

As it turned out, Biden didn’t just wander away mid-event with no clear purpose or direction — he’d actually been approaching one of the parachutists who was just out of the camera frame. A longer version of the video pans along with Biden, and shows him approaching the individual, who was packing up their parachute, and briefly conversing with them. 

In another similar instance, video circulated claiming to show Biden attempting to sit in a nonexistent chair during the 80th D-Day anniversary commemoration ceremony. Once again, a longer cut of the video showed that while Biden preemptively made a move to sit down, he seconds later took a seat in a — very real — chair along with others on the stage. 

A third video claiming to show a confused Biden having to be led off the stage by former President Barack Obama was shared by Trump on Truth Social. “Is this really who you want to be your president?” Trump wrote. The White House issued a firm denial of social media’s characterization of the incident. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates described the scene as “the president taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds.”  

At a rally Tuesday, Trump mocked Biden over his team’s response to the videos, and accidentally created a new term for “cheap fakes,” as he told attendees, “they say the videos of Crooked Joe shuffling around are clean fakes.”

Yet, Trump has not been spared, either. On Tuesday, YouTuber Bryan Tyler Cohen posted a still image of Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., grasping hands as they appeared to walk down a stage. “Here is a photo of Trump having to hold someone’s hand to guide him off stage. I’m sure this will get just as much coverage as the daily ‘BiDeN oLd’ story gets,” the X post’s caption read. 

The image was actually taken from a video that shows Trump and Trump Jr. briefly shaking hands after which the former president continued alone down the walkway. 

Donovan explains that oftentimes, the simplicity of the editing that constitutes a “cheap fake” can make it hard to see the overarching pattern of tactical misinformation. “These techniques are not new to us, but they do remind us that all media is ideological in some way,” she says. “With the cost of media manipulation going down, you also have the spread of that tactic available to many, many, many more people.” 

It’s a cheap fake when “it’s done with some kind of political or ideological motive — in this case to paint [Biden] as senile,” Donovan summarizes. 

The tactic is by no means new. Donovan points to the 2016 election cycle, when a spat of deceptively edited videos aimed to cast aspersions on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s physical health. The misinformation takes on a whole new dynamic when it plays on legitimate concerns held by its target audience. 

“It’s not just a case that a few people are out here having that conversation. There is a national dialogue about the age of these two men — and it does give people examples to work with, in their own minds, if they are using that as a reason to vote for someone or not vote for someone,” she says. “There is something here about the scale of this in terms of the fact that even though you can have these discussions, the scale of the misinformation, and the amount of people it reaches is just so massive because of social media.” 


“So writing stories, trying to correct the record, ensuring that someone sees the longer video as opposed to the shorter video. These things become, ultimately, a distraction for the political campaign. It becomes harder for the campaign to stay on message and stay on task,” Donovan says. 

That dynamic is playing out in textbook fashion on Fox News, Trump’s chief propaganda apparatus, where anchors have continued to push the deceptive narratives around the video. In the face of credible fact checks, Martha MacCallum claimed on-air that the videos in question are unedited, and another host went so far as to claim that the White House calling the videos “deepfakes” could constitute a “felony.”

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