IN SHORT: A screenshot with a photo of US president Joe Biden and two kids is being circulated online with the suggestion that he’s abusing at least one of them. But the photo shows nothing of the sort.
“TMZ website picture on Monday. Look closely at his hand.” That’s the text on a screenshot circulating on social media, including in South Africa, in December 2022. The point is made with an angry emoji face.
“Joe Biden yesterday at the beach in Delaware,” it adds.
The screenshot circulating online. Africa Check has blurred the faces of the children to protect their identities.
The screenshot shows a blurry photo of US president Joe Biden on a beach with two girl children in bikinis, one a bit older and taller than the other.
Biden has his hand on the younger girl’s shoulder. All three are in profile, smiling in what seems to be a pose for another camera out of frame to the right.
But the screenshot has a second photo, a close-up of the first, with a red circle around what seems to be a hand touching the girls inappropriately. The photo is blurry. But the screenshot’s suggestion is that Biden is fondling the bum of one of the two girls.
That would be sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of children is known as paedophilia.
“Why isn't news covering his and outraged . We need to protect the children,” one Instagram user commented on the screenshot.
But the screenshot is false. It isn’t “his” hand.
A higher resolution version of the photo reveals that the suspicious hand belongs to the older girl. And it’s just at the end of her arm, hanging by her side. Nobody is touching anyone’s bum.
We’ll explain how we know this, below.
But you might not get what’s going on here. Let’s discuss the background.
Another bizarre USA conspiracy theory
TMZ is a US-based celebrity gossip website owned by the Fox Corporation. But there’s no evidence the screenshot has anything to do with TMZ.
Joe Biden became president of the USA in early 2021. He lives in the small state of Delaware on the northeast coast of the country.
Biden was the USA’s liberal Democratic Party presidential candidate in the country’s November 2020 elections. He won the elections, beating out Donald Trump of the conservative Republican Party.
Trump had been US president since 2017, after winning the electoral college vote – but not the votes of all people who voted – in the 2016 elections.
Trump’s 2020 loss angered some of his supporters.
And conspiracy theorists believe an unproven claim that there is a global network of people who sexually abuse and even drink the blood of children. Wealthy “elites”, liberals and others on the left of the US political divide are accused of being part of this network.
This strange theory has harmed people.
In 2016 a man attacked a pizza restaurant in Washington DC, the US capital, with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle. He had been convinced by the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory that children were being abused in the restaurant’s basement, and wanted to rescue them.
The restaurant has no basement. No abused children were found in the restaurant. In 2017, the man was sentenced to four years in prison.
A small, hairless and wrong-way-round hand
But back to the Biden claim.
The original photo can be seen in far higher resolution on the Getty Images stock photo website.
Here its caption reads: “US President Joe Biden greets well-wishers as he walks on the beach in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, June 20, 2022.”
A close-up look reveals that the hand in question actually belongs to the older child. She’s standing with her arms hanging by her side.
A cropped version of the original photo, on Getty Images.
The hand is far smaller, younger and less hairy than Biden’s. And the hand is the wrong way round. If it were Biden’s hand it would show the palm. But it shows the top of the hand.
The screenshot's suggestion is misleading.
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