The Facts About Biden’s Purported ‘Freeze Up’ at Fundraiser and Obama Walking with Him Off Stage

In June 2024, online users and some news publishers shared videos claiming to show U.S. President Joe Biden “freeze up” for seven seconds at the conclusion of a campaign fundraiser with former President Barack Obama. With the 2024 election on the horizon and the first presidential debate set for June 27, the videos became a hot topic of discussion in the world of American politics.

That fundraiser rumor followed two other recent videos of Biden: one that users said showed him standing still at a Juneteenth concert at the White House, and another where users claimed he wandered to the edge of a camera’s shot while viewing skydivers in a demonstration at the G7 summit in Italy.

The apparent implication of the claims presented alongside these videos was simply the latest chapter in the unproven rumor the president, who is 81, experiences symptoms of an undisclosed medical diagnosis or other type of mental issue related to his age. For the record, Biden has not been diagnosed with any cognitive issues related to his age. Further, in a situation like this one where users imply Biden experienced a symptoms of a larger mental issue causing him to “freeze up,” the people who started the rumor own the responsibility of providing worthy evidence to lend credibility to their implied claim. They have presented no such evidence.

The White House has addressed these rumors by labeling them as “cheap fakes.” The Poynter Institute’s initiative known as MediaWise defines cheap fakes as “photos or videos that have been manipulated using cheaper, more accessible video editing software.” MediaWise continued: “Cheap fakes can also edit out important context or maybe reorder clips to alter the narrative to deceive you and shape your opinion.”

In this story, we’ll dial through all the facts specific to the viral fundraiser moment. We’ll also look at the statements the White House has publicly issued in response to the claim. In our own email outreach to the White House, we asked whether someone asked Biden what he remembers from the seven seconds he stood still on stage with Obama. We did not receive a response within 24 hours.

The Fundraiser

The campaign fundraiser featuring Biden and Obama occurred the evening of June 15 at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reported the fundraiser brought in more than $30 million for Biden’s reelection efforts. Tickets ranged from $250 all the way up to $500,000. Actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts also headlined the evening, and comedian Jimmy Kimmel served as moderator.

Readers seeking further context of the fundraiser might be interested to learn the White House published a full transcript of the discussion between Kimmel, Biden and Obama.

The Main Video

A video originally published by Chris Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter showed the conclusion of the fundraiser, including Biden’s purported “freeze up” moment. Gardner shared the post hours after the event ended, simply writing, “Former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden offer final waves to Peacock Theater crowd as Obama then grabs Biden’s hand to lead him offstage following 40-minute conversation with Jimmy Kimmel.”

Other users and publishers shared Gardner’s video on X and other websites. For example, the British tabloid The Sun posted the clip on YouTube, giving it the title, “Embarrassing moment Joe Biden appears to FREEZE again before Barack Obama pulls him off-stage.”

Gardner’s video showed that, at the end of the fundraiser, the audience applauded while Biden, Obama and Kimmel stood on stage. A live band played while Biden applauded and waved at the audience. Obama waved as well. Audience members held their phones high in the air to capture photos and videos. Around 10 seconds into Gardner’s video, Biden turned left, smiled and began standing still for about seven seconds. Biden began moving again only after Obama reached out his hand, held Biden by the wrist and then patted Biden on the back. The two men then walked off the stage together with Obama’s hand on Biden’s back. (Obama did not “pull” Biden off of the stage, as The Sun claimed.)

The Rumors Begin

On June 16 — the day after the fundraiser — the New York Post reported, “Biden appears to freeze up, has to be led off stage by Obama at mega-bucks LA fundraiser.” The top of the Post’s story featured Gardner’s video but omitted the first 10 seconds of Biden waving and applauding. However, the Post also embedded Gardner’s original X post with the unedited video three paragraphs into the article.

Similarly, The Gateway Pundit published a post titled, “YIKES! Biden Freezes as Obama Grabs His Arm and Leads Him Off Stage During California Fundraiser (VIDEO).” Turning Point USA founder and president Charlie Kirk also posted on X, “Whoa! Biden completely freezes on stage at Los Angeles fundraiser as Barack Obama has to grab his arm and escort him back stage.” The Gateway Pundit and Kirk both featured Gardner’s full and unedited video.

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast published an article with a headline from a viewpoint opposite that of the aforementioned conservative sources. That headline appearing in Google search results read, “No, President Biden Didn’t ‘Freeze’ at Star-Studded Hollywood Fundraiser.” The Associated Press also reported of the matter, “FACT FOCUS: Biden’s pause as he left a star-studded LA fundraiser becomes a target for opponents.”

Second Video Angle

The AP published a video it obtained from Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer that showed a second angle providing a longer look at the moment in question. That angle appeared to show Biden possibly looking slightly down in the direction of audience members. The existence of the second angle did not appear to change any of the known facts.

White House Addresses New York Post Article

The Daily Beast published a quote from Andrew Bates, White House senior deputy press secretary, who rebutted the Post’s article, saying, “Fresh off being fact checked by at least 6 mainstream outlets for lying about President Biden with cheap fakes, Rupert Murdoch’s sad little super pac, the New York Post, is back to disrespecting its readers & itself once again. Their ethical standards could do with a little unfreezing.”

Bates continued, “By pretending the President taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds is somehow wrong, all they’re really admitting—once again—is they can’t take on the leadership that’s fueling the strongest economic growth in the world, bringing violent crime to a 50-year low, restoring manufacturing jobs from overseas and strengthening our alliances.” (Posts on Bates’ X account reiterated the same sentiment.)

‘Cheap Fakes,’ ‘Deepfakes’

On June 17, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the fundraiser “freeze up” rumor during a daily briefing. Jean-Pierre answered a reporter’s question by referencing a statement purportedly released by Obama after the fundraiser. We reached out to Obama’s team to obtain a copy of the statement but did not yet receive a response.

Jean-Pierre referred to the three videos from the Juneteenth concert, skydiving demonstration in Italy and fundraiser moment as “cheap fakes.” She also falsely referred to them as “deepfakes.” A deepfake involves a video displaying a manipulation of lip movement and possibly a full face replacement. The aforementioned three videos of Biden were not deepfakes.

For further official statements from Jean-Pierre’s briefing, the White House published a full transcript. An official White House YouTube video also displays the moments Jean-Pierre addressed the videos, beginning at the 53:28 mark.

We will update this story if we find or receive any further facts or official statements to add to the article.

Sources

Bachman, Brett. “White House Fumes at Trumpworld’s Latest ‘Cheap Fake’ Video.” The Daily Beast, 16 June 2024, https://www.thedailybeast.com/no-president-biden-didnt-freeze-at-star-studded-hollywood-fundraiser.

“Cheap Fakes vs. Deepfakes.” Poynter, https://www.poynter.org/mediawise/is-this-legit-digital-media-literacy-101/cheap-fakes-vs-deepfakes/.

Crowley, Kinsey, and Gabe Hauari. “When Is the First 2024 Presidential Debate between Trump and Biden? Date, Time, Moderators, How to Watch.” USA TODAY, 19 June 2024, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2024/06/18/trump-biden-presidential-debate-2024/74135958007/.

Frame.io. https://app.frame.io/presentations/f80f9fa4-1519-4b3e-abf2-dd771232332b.

Gardner, Chris. X, 16 June 2024, https://x.com/chrissgardner/status/1802239454314410096.

Goldin, Melissa. “FACT FOCUS: Biden’s Pause as He Left a Star-Studded LA Fundraiser Becomes a Target for Opponents.” The Associated Press, 17 June 2024, https://apnews.com/article/biden-fundraiser-freeze-misinformation-election-efe67fe51ab189cbcbc850332969fd46.

Mehta, Seema, and Liam Dillon. “Biden, Obama Raise More than $30 Million at Glitzy L.A. Event.” Los Angeles Times, 16 June 2024, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2024-06-15/biden-obama-celebrities-raise-millions-in-l-a-for-presidents-reelection-bid.

Nesi, Chris. “Biden Appears to Freeze up, Has to Be Led off Stage by Obama at Mega-Bucks LA Fundraiser.” New York Post, 16 June 2024, https://nypost.com/2024/06/16/us-news/biden-appears-to-freeze-up-has-to-be-led-off-stage-by-obama-at-mega-bucks-la-fundraiser/.

“President Biden in Los Angeles This Weekend for High-Priced Fundraiser.” ABC7 Los Angeles, 14 June 2024, https://abc7.com/post/president-biden-los-angeles-weekend-high-priced-fundraiser/14952573/.

“Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby.” The White House, 17 June 2024, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2024/06/17/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-karine-jean-pierre-and-national-security-communications-advisor-john-kirby-6/.

“Remarks by President Biden and President Obama in a Moderated Conversation with Jimmy Kimmel at a Campaign Reception | Los Angeles, CA.” The White House, 16 June 2024, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/06/15/remarks-by-president-biden-and-president-obama-in-a-moderated-conversation-with-jimmy-kimmel-at-a-campaign-reception-los-angeles-ca/.

Weedston, Lindsey. “Joe Biden Freezes During White House Juneteenth Event, Becomes A Solid Meme.” The Daily Dot, 12 June 2024, https://www.dailydot.com/memes/joe-biden-freezes/.

Williams, Michael, and Samantha Waldenberg. “Right-Wing Media Outlets Use Deceptively Cropped Video to Misleadingly Claim Biden Wandered off at G7 Summit | CNN Politics.” CNN, 14 June 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/06/14/politics/media-outlets-use-deceptively-edited-video-to-claim-biden-wandered-off-at-g7-summit/index.html.

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