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Was Joe Biden the victim of ‘cheapfakes’?

Joe Biden appears to freeze at a Juneteenth event. Credit: Getty

June 18, 2024 - 8:16pm

A series of videos have been circulating online suggesting that President Joe Biden is mentally and physically incompetent due to his advanced age, but the White House and various media outlets have dismissed the clips as “cheapfakes”.

The term is a play on “deepfakes”, fake images produced through AI, except “cheapfakes” refer to real videos presented in a misleading light, often through selective shortening or misleading captions. The White House’s claims that the videos are fake are themselves misleading, since the videos are in fact real. However, the unedited and contextualised versions of the viral clips show that the American Right has on occasion given misleading accounts of the incidents, which present a mixed impression of Biden’s health.

1. Biden “freezing” at Juneteenth concert

During a concert at the White House commemorating the end of slavery last week, Biden stood completely still, with his hands suspended several inches above a natural resting position, for about twenty seconds.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed concerns about the incident, saying the President was simply not dancing, much like others around him. “Excuse me, I didn’t know not dancing was a mental… was a health issue,” she said. The clip does show two security guards who are looking side to side rather than dancing, and the Vice President’s husband, Doug Emhoff, is not dancing for parts of the video. However, Biden’s total stillness stands out even compared to nearby participants who aren’t dancing.

Cheapfake score: 1/10. The video is not doctored or misleading. 

2. Biden gesturing toward parachuter at G7

Doing the rounds this week is a video of Biden seemingly wandering off after a skydiving demonstration at the G7 conference in Italy, a clip subject to walltowall debunking from the mainstream press.

In the video, the President walks several feet off from the other world leaders, faces away from them, and offers a thumbs up to an officer packing a parachute. The New York Post shared an edited video on social media with the officer cropped out, making it appear that Biden was talking to no one, and the photos for their cover page similarly excluded him.

The full video, however, does show Biden gesturing toward an officer who is not at any point looking in his direction. Giorgia Meloni eventually leads the President back by the hand. Later in the video, Biden puts his sunglasses on during a photo op, and appears nearly frozen as he very slowly lowers his hands to a resting position. While the Post misled about the contents of the clip, that original video does not paint Biden in a positive light.

Cheapfake score: 8/10.

3. Holding Barack Obama’s hand

Former president Barack Obama led Biden off stage by the hand at a recent fundraiser in Los Angeles, sparking another round of speculation about the White House incumbent’s mental acuity.

A senior Obama advisor disputed claims that Biden needed to be led by the hand because he had frozen up. The White House does not dispute the veracity of the video, but instead says it’s being misrepresented. “They are friends. They’re like family to each other, and I think that’s what you saw,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.

While videos do clearly show Obama taking Biden’s hand, contrary to claims of liberal influencers who themselves shared doctors videos online, it’s not obvious that this was due to Biden struggling to get off the stage.

Cheapfake score: 3/10

4. Struggling to sit down in Normandy

In another viral video, Biden appears crouching down at a D-Day commemoration, while those around him remain standing. Several commentators claimed he was trying to sit on an “invisible chair,” although in reality there was a chair directly behind him. However, it did take Biden 10 seconds to sit down, with three pauses.

One fact-checker argued that Biden was pausing on his way down because the next speaker was being introduced, but the President had paused mid-sit before that announcement began. In context, the video may demonstrate physical slowness, but it doesn’t show Biden imagining a chair that doesn’t exist.

Cheapfake score: 5/10

5. Facing the wrong way during D-Day ceremony

A viral 20-second clip of Biden in the audience of a D-Day commemoration shows the President slowly turning away from the speaker and toward what appears to be the audience. Those sitting near him — Emmanuel Macron, Brigitte Macron and Jill Biden — slowly follow suit.

While the clipped version gives the impression that Biden is confused and facing the wrong direction, a full-length video provides further context. The President and the neighbouring attendees were actually on stage along with several veterans, and Biden was turning to face the veterans, with one of the vets offering an appreciative nod to Macron after the pair turned to face him.

Cheapfake score: 8/10


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago

I don’t appreciate cheapfakes by either party, but look at the way Trump is covered in the media. There’s almost always an unflattering photo to go with each article; meanwhile Biden is usually shown smiling and waving.
Selective choice of photos, selective choice of quotes, selective choice of polls. Both sides have been playing this game forever.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Unherd aren’t beyond doing this, either. Just look at the photo of him at the top of the “What Farage can learn…” main article today.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The most famous example, of course, is the Trump speech in Charlottesville saying there are good people on both sides. The dishonest reporting of this speech is truly horrific. Biden even cited this grossly edited quote as the reason he ran for president. Millions of Americans have never heard the full context of this speech and still think it was a rac!st comment. And people wonder why trust in the media has cratered.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Trump literally said that neo-nazis were “very good people”. There’s no way you can weasel your way out of that, fanboy!

Terry M
Terry M
1 month ago

No, there were very many people there to protest the taking down of statues – that was the original reason for the protest.
Unless, of course, you mean there were no good people protesting agains the protest.
You are remarkably dishonest.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Veenbaas again for the win. Great analogy.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“Don’t believe anything you see with your own eyes or hear with your own ears, just listen to us.”

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Maybe it’s because Trump is such a frustrated old grouch, a Mussolini wannabe, who can’t accept the fact that he was defeated in the election. Why anyone supports him is a wonder, he never has anything good to say about anyone or anything. A vile vengeful resentful old man who offers no hope for the country or the younger generations, with no understanding of the issues and world around him, and questionable sanity to boot. He is not fit to manage himself, never mind a country

aaron david
aaron david
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

We support him because the country worked while he was president. Unlike Biden’s America.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
1 month ago
Reply to  aaron david

Really, the only thing I can think of that he did was the tax cut for the already rich, resulting in increased deficit spending. His handling of the pandemic was a total disaster. He had 4 years to build the wall, which was his main campaign promise and he didn’t do that either. He ended the Iran nuclear deal, permitting Iran to accelerate its weapons program. His love in with Kim of North Korea was a complete farce. His coziness with Putin and disrespect for long term allies was a disgrace. I bet Kim, Xi and Putin can’t wait for Trump to win again so they can manipulate him to their advantage. I am sure most Americans are looking forward to 4 more lost years and backsliding at best, total disaster at worst.

aaron david
aaron david
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Illegal immigration was way down, we didn’t start any new wars, gasholine was cheap, employment was high (and at all time heights for African Americans). All up until the establishment lied to him about Covid and what “needed” to be done about it.
Now? Gas, along with everything else is much more expensive, employment is down, crime is up, and so on. Every single metric is worse. Add to that Putin deciding to go rampaging under Bidens watch, Israel is at war as Hamas thought now was a good time to go nuts, North Korea is rattling it’s cage again, China is pushing out in the seas, and so on.
Like I said, everything was better.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

David, you’re mistaking your own ignorance of the good things that Trump did for facts. I suggest some additional research would do you some good.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Sign of the times; “vile, vengeful, resentful…” A fitting description of any of us. We “never have anything good to say about anyone or anything.”

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

Thanks for this essay. It’s important to understand the confirmation bias we are all susceptible to. I saw the highly edited version of Biden with the parachuter and I was truly disturbed. In full context, the video paints a much different picture. Although Biden is clearly not fully aware of his surroundings, it is much less disturbing.

B Davis
B Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

You’re too kind.
The fact that Joe was, indeed, seeing a real live human being out of frame, who did not see and did not respond to the shuffling president and his thumbs-up, is only marginally better than Joe chasing Harvey the Rabbit.
Presidents at G7 Conferences and photo-ops with World Leaders do not do that. They do not wander away in clueless wonder at the man who fell from the sky. They do not abandon center stage. They do not have to be pulled back to the Occasion by the Italian prime minister.
They especially do not give their election year opponents the opportunity to display & exclaim their apparent dotage.
It is only less disturbing if we allow ourselves to forget that he’s the so-called ‘Leader of the Free World’. What we saw was fine, if it was Old Joe from down the Block, in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot distracted by a rolling grocery cart. It’s scary as hell when we consider he holds the codes to 5044 nuclear warheads.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

I don’t see anyone claiming that Trump’s continuous gaffes are faked because, obviously, they are not.
The difference of course is that everyone knows that Trump is a moron and it has already been factored in. Nobody expects him to have the faintest idea of what he is talking about.
And that is the clown you have chosen to lead your cult. Amazing.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

It is my pleasure to downvote your comment, CS, as long as you mistake mudslinging for arguing. I assure you it’s not as convincing as you suppose.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

He’s just a sh*tposter. His only goal is not to make cogent arguments but to derail the conversation. Best to ignore.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

True, but I find CS more funny than anything else.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
1 month ago

There is no way to effectively spin the dancing video. Biden is frozen and robotic. It is actually really creepy to watch. Leave it to the Democrats to create a new and intentionally misleading word like ‘cheapfakes.’ The videos aren’t fake. The fact that they are running him for President shows how little they actually care about their country.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Frankly pathetic article.
Biden’s gait, when he is led by the hand by Obama, causes a feeling of nausea, and the applause of the audience at this time is proof of how much the Democrats despise the American people, trying to sell them this decrepit old man as president.
And the author gave Cheapfake a rating: 3/10?
Shame on you!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

They just need to get him over the rigged finish line. If he drops dead a minute after he’s inaugurated, they’ll be relieved, and without batting an eye, install the next puppet in his place.

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Or, about “fakery”!

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

Cherry-picking a moment out of the larger context can certainly give a false or misleading impression. That said, I’ve watched Trump give multiple long-form interviews on multiple occasions, asking and answering lengthy questions and engaging in complex discussions and reasoning. I’m afraid that I can’t say the same for Biden; interviews such as those just don’t happen, or if they do, they’re softball interviews with friendly reporters. His mental confusion may be major or minor, but it is definitely there.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Next CNN debate…..
Question to Mr. President Joe Biden: “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?”
Question to Orange Man Bad: “Why are you trying to end democracy?”

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Well said! And an apt description of what actually happens ….. 🙂

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
1 month ago

The whole Juneteenth day is fake!

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago

Good analysis. Yes, some are exaggerating the import of some of these videos, and that should be called out. But no, the gist of the portrait they collectively paint is not wrong. Joe Biden will be lucky to finish out this term. There is no way he should be running for another one. He was never that great at his peak, and he is a ghost of his former self now. As Bill Maher says, he looks cadaverous. Like one of the walking and talking dead.
The Mormon Church has done this for years, having a church president who was incapable of leading because of age but was left in office for political reasons. (The current president Russell Nelson is 99 years old and too frail to do anything.) But having a figurehead for a church is not as harmful as having a figurehead for a country. A country needs a president who leads, not one who is president in name only.
Two things this election cycle have deepened my disappointment in the Democrats. First, the way they have forced Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Democratic voters using machine politics, even though neither is qualified to be president. Second, the way they have used the legal system as a political weapon to attack Donald Trump during a presidential campaign.
Some Democrats have been brave enough to call out these two dagger slashes at the breast of democracy. They have asked Joe Biden not to run, or have criticized the lawfare being waged against Donald Trump. But those mavericks have been forced back into the herd. No Democratic dissent will be tolerated.
Shame on them all.

B Davis
B Davis
1 month ago

We’re arguing angel-pinhead-dancing. It’s a waste of time.
Certainly every political party seeks advantage in how their candidate is painted & packaged…and equally they all seek to repaint & repackage the opposition to disadvantage. This is not news.
That we do it today with selective video editing is completely unsurprising.
What is of critical note, though, is the fact — the unalterable truth — that Octogenarian Joe, Old Snuffles, has age-related dementia. It’s not the miles on the odometer which is the problem (lots of octogenarians — I hope I will be one! — are sharp, incisive, and exceedingly aware); it’s that, in this case the tired old fool is none of those things.
My father was a rock of a man, a world war vet, father of 3: builder, shaper, maker his entire life. Every room he entered lit up. He was a hell of a dancer they told me, back in the day. 85 years old and still rototilling his half-acre garden. But IT (what we all fear) got him anyway. His walk slowed; his shoulders hunched; his eyes lost focus. He became vague and only halfway there. His sentences died and were forgotten; he looked sad. His pants stopped fitting. He shuffled as he moved. Put a blue suit on him with a red power tie and you’d think he was Joe.
We’d keep him in arm’s reach. He’d wander given half a chance. Easily distracted, big crowds and loud music would baffle him. He too would tend to freeze; the face blank.
Conversations became little more than catch-phrase repetitions. He got angry every now & then. He didn’t know why. Just frustration, we guessed, at what might have been his sadly lingering sense that he was not who he used to be. Never would be again.
It’s not the miles….it’s what the miles have done. Joe deserves his oatmeal, his afternoon naps, the music he still enjoys, perhaps a bowl of ice cream for lunch & dinner. What he doesn’t deserve….and what we absolutely cannot give him…is the Presidency. God help us.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  B Davis

It’s not the miles; it’s the mileage. Indeed so ……

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

While Doug Emhoff had his own reasons not to put much energy into dancing, the two Secret Service agents the author mentioned were stationed at the concert to physically protect President Biden and to be fully aware of any possible threats to him. While the risk of an attack would seem minimal to most UnHerd readers, it takes only two terrorists to put an elected official at risk… one to create a distraction and another to eliminate the target. Terrorists have a clear advantage at an event like the Juneteenth concert where guests are enjoying themselves and listening to loud music. I am surprised that the author would bolster Corine Jean-Pierre’s weak claim by including the Secret Service agents among the other people who were also not dancing. Those agents had an exceptionally important job to do and it didn’t include clapping their hands and wiggling their hips.