False Information About Presidential Debate

The Four Percent

Watch out for documents taken out of context and narratives questioning Joe Biden’s mental fitness.

Last updated on September 29, 2020, at 6:15 p.m. ET

Posted on September 29, 2020, at 5:58 p.m. ET

The first of four presidential debates will see former vice president Joe Biden square off against President Donald Trump. The candidates will discuss COVID-19, the economy, race and protests, and election integrity.

We are keeping track of false, misleading, and unverified information about the debates circulating online.

Hi. I’m monitoring for false and misleading information around the first presidential #debates.

See something? DM or email me 📩 jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com. Signal number in bio.
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Before passing on any online rumor, take the time to verify it. This can be done by checking how recently an account has been created, keeping a close eye on information from news outlets, or searching online to find another source.

How to read this post:

UNVERIFIED: Claims that have no concrete evidence either confirming or refuting them. This type of claim has either no sources or no evidence, and is based on conjecture with no original reporting behind it. Treat this kind of information with healthy skepticism and wait to see how it develops.

MISLEADING: Posts that take a real event out of context, for example: miscaptioning a video or photo from the protests. This can also include images that are presented at a deceptive angle or descriptions that cherry-pick facts. Avoid spreading or engaging with this type of post.

FALSE: Reporters or reliable sources with direct knowledge have contradicted this information on the record, or it is refuted by unimpeachable evidence. Examples include images or videos filmed at a different time or location but presented as recent, demonstrably false claims, and websites masquerading as news outlets publishing untrue information.

1. Articles and memes falsely claimed Biden asked for breaks during the debate and misleadingly said he refused to submit for an earpiece inspection. The source for the falsehood was a tweet that was later updated.

Daily Caller / Screenshot

The false rumors were perpetuated by the Daily Caller, Breitbart, and a slew of memes spreading across social media. It’s part of a long tradition of presidential candidates being accused of wearing earpieces during debates, going back more than a decade.

On a call with reporters, the Biden campaign said, “It is completely absurd. Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks.”

NBC News has found a coordinated attempt to spread this message through a network of right-wing Facebook pages.

2. Biden did not get debate questions in advance. That claim comes from a contributor to Infowars, a website notorious for spreading false information. Debate themes are public, not secret.

Lots of disinfo ahead of tonight’s debate. One case: InfoWars says Biden got questions in advance, citing former Fox host Todd Starnes. Starnes himself just heard it on local radio. And the radio station got it from conspiracy theory king and ex InfoWars employee Jerome Corsi.


3. No, a declassified document doesn’t prove Hillary Clinton planned the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government.

The document, which was tweeted by the president’s son and has been blazing through social media, states, “The [intelligence community] does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.”

The falsehood once again plays into an ongoing effort by Biden’s opponents to question his mental fitness. Giuliani is also a known purveyor of false information and has made countless false claims in the past.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.

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