DEBUNKED

Was Joe Biden tricked by pro-Trump kids? Not really

A photo of US President Joe Biden surrounded by kids wearing MAGA merchandise has gone viral.
A photo of US President Joe Biden surrounded by kids wearing MAGA merchandise has gone viral. © Observers

A photo of US President Joe Biden shows him posing with a group of children sporting Donald Trump merchandise. Online, Trump supporters are revelling in the fact that the president was tricked into taking the photo. We looked into it – and found that the whole photo op was intentional.

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In the photo, Joe Biden is surrounded by children wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ caps. One is wearing a t-shirt with Trump on it and the message, ‘I’ll be back’. In the background of the photo, there’s a cardboard box with a ‘Q’ on it, which many people online say stands for QAnon, the alt-right conspiracy theory. 

The photo has been shared a lot on TwitterFacebookReddit, and received more than 230,000 likes on Instagram. Most of the captions of the photo claimed that Biden hadn’t realised he was taking a photo with Trump supporters. Even Donald Trump shared it himself on the Gab social media platform, saying ‘Those kids tricked Biden just like the Taliban did!”

A Facebook post on September 13 shared the photo of Biden surrounded by young Trump supporters, with the caption saying that he was ‘punkd’ by the kids.
A Facebook post on September 13 shared the photo of Biden surrounded by young Trump supporters, with the caption saying that he was ‘punkd’ by the kids. © Observers

A reader sent this photo to the FRANCE 24 Observers team’s email address to ask us to verify it.

A real photo – but taken deliberately

It’s a real photo, and was taken during Biden’s visit on September 11, 2021, to a fire station in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which was one of the fire stations to send first responders to the scene after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

This photo has also made the rounds on French social media. Some posts in French claimed that the photo was taken at ‘Brookland’ middle school in Washington, which is false. The photo below was taken by Tim Swain, a man running to be senator for South Carolina in 2022, from a different angle.

Photo shared by Tim Swain’s Twitter account on September 12, 2021.
Photo shared by Tim Swain’s Twitter account on September 12, 2021. © Twitter @SwainForSenate

What really happened is that Joe Biden told journalists at the event that he wanted to share a message of unity. He told journalists for C-Span: ‘I think the real issue for those kids that — just had a picture taken with — a couple of them had Trump hats from last year — I think, for them, it’s going to be: Are we going to, in the next four, five, six, 10 years, demonstrate that democracies can work, or not?’

You can find a transcription of that interview here.

Even people who are pro-Trump agreed with the president’s message. Jana Musser, the mother of one of the children in the photo, shared the image on Twitter on September 12, writing, ‘We may not always see eye to eye, but we can all come together to be UNITED!’