(Note: About six hours after this fact check was published, the tweet and the user account associated with it were removed from Twitter.)
Conspiracy theories questioning President Biden’s mental acuity and fitness aren’t new. Yet as the country continues to process the events leading to and proceeding from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection that left one police officer and four rioters dead, attempting to deter baseless conspiracy theories becomes a higher-stakes issue.
As the country witnessed Biden being sworn in as the 46th U.S. president, right-wing message boards and QAnon communities started adapting their post-Trump worldview into something that could still fit their narrative — which leads us to the tweet mentioned above.
The tweet, originally posted by the now-defunct Twitter handle @EIElephantes, alleges that Biden is wearing an “earpiece” and receiving orders from an unidentified “someone” to “salute the marines” on his way inside the Capitol. The tweet goes on to allege that Biden simply “repeated the words” said to him via the earpiece, noting that the Marines flanking the Capitol entrance weren’t “saluted” after all.
The tweet earned thousands of retweets and likes. But the video itself doesn’t come close to supporting the conspiratorial accusations.
Here’s what we do know about the moment in question. The source for the video featured in the tweet is C-SPAN, which has all its inaugural coverage posted on its site and available to view. It also shows no signs of deceptive editing or further manipulation beyond mislabeling the action on-screen when compared with the original video feed — which The Washington Post used as part of its own live inaugural coverage.
The longer, original video — which shows the same camera angle — also shows the arrival of Biden, his wife, Jill Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and her husband, Doug Emhoff, at the Capitol the morning of Jan. 20. As for Biden saying “salute the Marines” as he passed through servicemen that flanked him, it’s just not the case.
After multiple viewings, we’re also able to make the determination that Biden did not utter the phrase “salute the Marines.” Instead, Biden remarked, “Good-looking Marines” as he passed through the Capitol doors.
As for not saluting the troops? A president is commander in chief of all U.S. military forces. No regulation exists stating a president must give out or return a salute. In fact, as pointed out by this 2016 fact check via the Florida Times-Union, presidential salutes are more out of courtesy than protocol. The video also doesn’t show Marines saluting Biden as he made his way through the entrance.
The Pinocchio Test
The tweet is a clear misrepresentation of a moment captured by the live feed on Inauguration Day. It simply does not support the assertions made by the tweet — which aims to propagate an already discredited narrative.
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