Joe Biden Walking Away, Air-Handshake Video Disputes Explained

Clips of President Joe Biden walking off during a speech by the first lady to chase an ice cream truck, and shaking hands with thin air, are causing a stir on social media.

So, what's going on? The answer is simple—the meme factory strikes again. But it's worth looking more closely at how two ordinary videos were turned into instruments to undermine the president.

One of the videos that has been widely shared in the past few days actually dates back to September 10, 2021, when Joe and Jill Biden visited Brookland Middle School in Washington, D.C.

In the original clip posted on C-SPAN, the president can be seen walking away during the first lady's speech about how to keep children safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, only to return to her side some 10 seconds later. It is unclear why he walked away.

Social media users added the sound of an ice cream truck approaching—which is not in the original clip—to create a Twitter meme of the president walking off to chase an ice cream.

Some even digitally edited the video to add an actual ice cream truck to the footage.

This is par for the course on social media, where all the president's public appearances are closely watched by his critics—and often picked apart, memefied or ridiculed.

The controversy around the "ice cream clip" picked up steam after the news agency Reuters published a fact-checking article declaring it a fake.

Some social media users expressed surprise that the agency took the time to debunk the clip and even mocked Reuters for its report—a fact that was picked up by conservative outlets including Fox News.

Other users pointed out that, even without the ice cream truck music, it was baffling that Biden had walked away during the first lady's speech and no explanation had been given.

Some of the doctored videos have now been flagged as "Manipulated media" by Twitter.

The second clip doing the rounds on social media is more recent, from Biden's four-day trip to the Middle East in July.

In this video, filmed as the president completed a press briefing in Tel Aviv, Israel, Biden briefly appears to be reaching out for a handshake with thin air, because nobody can be seen in front of him. He keeps his hand up for a second before pointing at the chairs in front of him—and is apparently asking for indication on where to sit.

Critics on social media alleged that the video shows the president has dementia and is incapable of governing. There is no indication that this is the case.

It's not the first time Biden has been accused of shaking hands with thin air. After a speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in April, the president turned around and lifted his hand in the air—prompting critics to claim he was confused.

Independent fact-checkers debunked the clip, however, saying Biden was gesturing to the audience.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the state dining room of the White House on July 28. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images