“Joe Biden confuses President Trump with George W. Bush: ‘because of who I’m running against … George, ah, George’”

— Republican National Committee rapid response director Steve Guest, in a misleading tweet, on Oct. 25

The video clip that Republican National Committee rapid response director Steve Guest tweeted late Sunday night seemed to be the stuff of opposition researcher’s dreams. Just 27 seconds long, it appeared to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden criticize former president George W. Bush as the person he is running against — not President Trump. The snippet from Biden’s Oct. 25 “I Will Vote” concert seemed to be evidence of a nasty theory the Trump campaign has been pushing for months: Joe Biden is senile.

Fox News, the “Today” show and the Daily Mail among others all picked up the story. Trump tweeted about the supposed debacle, saying: “Joe Biden called me George yesterday. Couldn’t remember my name. Got some help from the anchor to get him through the interview. The Fake News Cartel is working overtime to cover it up!” Guest’s tweet had more than a million views as of 2 p.m. Monday.

Still, most things that appear to be too good to be true are just that and, as our colleague David Weigel originally pointed out, this clip was no exception.

The Facts

The “I Will Vote” concert was hosted by comedian George Lopez and political commentator Ana Navarro. The segment begins with what looks like a fancy Zoom call. Navarro and Lopez are each in a separate frame, as are the Bidens and a sign language interpreter.

Lopez asks Biden why undecided Americans should vote and vote for him. As Biden begins his answer, the frames of Navarro and Lopez are dropped from the screen.

“First of all, the reason they should vote is there is a lot on, on the ballot this year. This is the most consequen — not because I’m running but because of who I am running against — this is the most consequential election in a long, long, long time and the character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot,” Biden responds. “What kind of country are we going to be?”

Then, he stutters, “Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh, are going to find ourselves in position where if uh Trump gets elected uh we are going to be uh, going to be in a different world.”

Or was it: “Four more years, uh, George, uh, George, uh, we, uh.” It’s hard to tell.

With his caption, Guest answers an unspoken question of just who is the “George,” suggesting that Biden confused President Trump with former president George W. Bush. His evidence is this exact clip with one important tweak. The clip Guest tweeted begins when Biden says, “This is the most,” but after Navarro and Lopez were dropped from the screen, making it appear as though Biden is simply addressing the audience.

By beginning the clip after the moderators were removed from the screen, viewers have no idea that Biden could have been referring to George Lopez, who had originally asked the question.

“He was addressing George Lopez, the interviewer, as is a common practice,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said. “That is, unless, like Donald Trump, you blow a gasket and storm out because you can’t stomach being fact-checked.”

Guest defended his clip job without apology. He sent The Fact Checker this statement:

“This isn’t a ‘fact check.’ It’s the Washington Post doing the Biden campaign’s bidding to cover up what Biden actually said. Biden was talking about ‘four more years’ of President Trump and said the name ‘George’ instead. His wife is mouthing ‘Trump’ next to him in an attempt to save him and remind him who is currently president. Which explanation makes more sense? That Biden was expressing concern for 4 years of George Lopez as President!? Or does it make more sense that the same Joe Biden who couldn’t remember Mitt Romney’s name or the office he is running for mistakenly referred to a past Republican administration instead of the current one? It’s obviously the latter.”

We will note that there is no evidence of Jill Biden mouthing anything while Biden is speaking, unless you have an overactive imagination. She is pursing her lips in the clip.

After we contacted “Today” about the issue, the show added an editor’s note to its report, acknowledging: “The fact that Biden was talking with George Lopez was relevant and helpful context that should have been included in the original report.”

The Pinocchio Test

As we have documented this campaign season, the Trump campaign and the RNC are eager purveyors of misleading and out-of-context clips. They earn lots of clicks, which is perhaps the point, but it’s pretty childish behavior. After all, Trump makes plenty of verbal slips, too. (Just ask his former national security adviser, “Michael Bolton.”)

Guest’s tweet is a classic example of the isolation, according to The Fact Checker’s Guide to Manipulated Video. Starting the clip when the moderators were no longer on the screen, he eliminated key context by removing the most obvious George that Biden could be referring to — George Lopez — and filled in the gap with an answer better suited to the Trump campaign’s unproven narrative of Biden’s faltering mental acuity.

Guest earns Four Pinocchios for his efforts.

Four Pinocchios

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