Fact Check: Viral Photo of Joe Biden Looking 'Embalmed'
With GOP candidates firing up the 2024 campaign machine, attentions remain on whether President Joe Biden will run for a second term for the Democrats.
If Biden were to win, he would be 86 by the time he left office, leading to questions among commentators—especially his critics—on whether he could handle the pressures of the role at such an advanced age.
And, a photo, claimed to have been taken recently, showed what looked like a particularly pallid-looking Biden speaking in public.
A tweet by @catturd2, posted on March 16, 2023, viewed 1.7 million times, included a photo of Biden with the message: “Is it me or is Joe Biden starting to look like an embalmed muppet?”
The picture shared on Twitter is not the original version, nor was it taken in recent weeks.
The original Associated Press photo was taken more than two years ago in Erie, Pennsylvania—ID number 20284794699700—as Biden spoke at the Plumbers Local Union No. 27 training center, during the build-up to the 2020 presidential election.
For a start, the original picture shows Biden with a far healthier color in his cheeks. There also doesn’t appear to be quite the same degree of aging underneath his eyes, suggesting this particular image has both been diluted in color and modified.
Moreover, the original photo was taken at a distance, Biden’s face occupying only a small fraction of the shot. Any image, cropped from a much larger photo, is likely to be of poorer quality than an actual close-up.
That degradation may have contributed to the president’s appearance in the image. However, the context that it was captured from a distance is not provided in @catturd2’s tweet either.
Other photos taken at the same event show Biden with a healthier color too and (admittedly) at more flattering angles, including those taken by other agencies, such as Reuters.
It is worth noting that professional photo agencies also routinely edit their photos to improve the clarity, quality, and impact of images.
In any case, the photo that was used on Twitter was not taken recently, as user @catturd2 suggested, nor does it reflect the quality of the original AP image, creating a misleading impression of Biden’s appearance.
Biden has been the victim of image manipulation elsewhere this month.
A photo claimed to have come from the White House this month, showed what appeared to be the president cupping, if not full-on grabbing, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s backside.
The viral image was a digitally manipulated version of an official photo shared by the White House press team.
Although the photo is of Joe Biden, it was not taken recently and has been altered from the form in which it was originally published by the Associated Press.
The original image was captured in October 2020. The photo was subsequently altered, though it is not clear by whom, making the president appear paler.
The quality of the image was also reduced by cropping. Darkened spots beneath his eyes may point to further manipulation, though this is not clear.
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