President Biden smiled for the cameras — actually who knows if he was smiling, because he had a mask on — last week as he received his COVID-19 booster shot in a televised stunt from what appeared to be the Oval Office. Except it wasn’t the Oval Office, it was a movie-like set in an auditorium inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, mere steps from the West Wing.
The elaborate set included what appeared to be hardwood flooring, molding on the walls, and windows with (gasp!) greenscreens showing fake scenes of trees, and set off a flurry of remarks on social media making the warranted observation that the set might not be the only fake in the Biden White House.
But don’t worry, Facebook’s anti-misinformation team — which, if the Democrat operative posing as a whistleblower this week has her way, will only get more aggressive — flagged the memes “as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news.”
But wasn’t it true that the White House created a fake set of the Oval Office? No, PolitiFact fact-checkers were quick to reassure us, the “White House didn’t create [a] fake set just for Joe Biden’s booster shot.”
“The backdrop behind Biden as he was getting his booster shot wasn’t ‘created’ for that event,” the fact-checkers explained, “it had been used five days earlier for a global coronavirus summit.” Politifact rated the Facebook post in question false.
But what they didn’t do was answer the question of why a fake set might have been created farther away from the president’s typical work environment. Is the Oval Office under repairs? Was the lighting from actual windows causing problems for the videographers?
You might think this is a trivial question, but the president using a deceptive backdrop is actually a very serious scandal, possibly the kind that causes Democracy to Die in Darkness. Just ask The New York Times and other media figures that pulled off the impressive feat of imagining such a scandal into existence — even though it never actually happened — in October 2020.
Remember when President Trump gave a video speech from the South Lawn of the White House, and the corporate media and Twittersphere suggested with horror (and no apparent reason) that the president was using a greenscreen?
The New York Times, in a now-scrubbed article coauthored by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, claimed, “Mr. Trump was shown on the South Lawn of the White House hundreds of feet away from the mansion, but it appeared to be a digital backdrop as leaves blowing in the wind behind him could be seen repeating on a loop.”
“Did Donald Trump Record His Latest Twitter Video in Front of a Green Screen?” Mother Jones asked, just above the standard blip entreating readers to “Fight disinformation … Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.”
“Trust in our public institutions has been so degraded that it’s not completely out of bounds to wonder if the White House is releasing manipulated videos of the president to prove he’s in good health,” answered reporter Nathalie Baptiste.
“I think it’s pretty clearly a green screen. The sharpness of the outline and the lighting. Also it’s a very long way to bring a sick president to shoot something when you have the Rose Garden,” said MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in a now-deleted tweet.
I think it’s pretty clearly a green screen. The sharpness of the outline and the lighting. Also it’s a very long way to bring a sick president to shoot something when you have the Rose Gardenl. https://t.co/bBZyb2m0Fs
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 8, 2020
2/ Trump faked this video released today. It’s shot in front of a green screen, the background is fake & on 3-second loop. Is Trump so unwell that he can’t even step outside to film a video?
Attached is zoomed in video of the bushes to the right. On loop. pic.twitter.com/cVIUTu3qSk
— John Aravosis ?????️? (@aravosis) October 8, 2020
The Washington Post thought the completely made-up scandal deserved not one, but two headlines. “Trump’s video prompts green screen speculation, online skepticism,” the Post blared. “People speculate that Trump used a green screen for this Twitter video,” it reported a day later.
The controversy, which was quickly debunked and backtracked, was used to stir concerns about the president’s health as he recovered from COVID-19. But you won’t see the same concern from corporate outlets about 78-year-old Biden’s health, despite his numerous physical and mental tumbles.
Why is the Biden White House using a fake Oval Office? Who knows. You probably won’t hear much about it, because it probably isn’t newsworthy and probably isn’t a scandal.
But Biden’s fake set actually exists, which already makes it newsier, and more scandalous, than the Trump greenscreen that wasn’t.