US President Joe Biden has been criticized on social media and by political opponents for his joking remarks about ice cream in his first public statement since a shooter opened fire and killed six people at a school in Nashville, Tennessee.
Several social media users shared a short video clip by the conservative US network Fox News as alleged proof that Biden did not address the tragedy appropriately. In the clip, Biden starts speaking in front of an audience, while the aston reads "Biden addresses deadly Nashville school shooting." But his remarks are markedly lighthearted.
"Thank you. My name is Joe Biden. I'm Dr. Jill Biden's husband. And I eat Jeni's Ice Cream, chocolate chip. I came down because I heard there was chocolate chip ice cream. By the way, I have a whole refrigerator full upstairs. You think I'm kidding, I'm not."
Biden pauses repeatedly as the audience bursts into laughter.
Since then, some social media users have been asking: "Is this real?"
DW fact check: Misleading
The video footage is authentic. Joe Biden started his speech on Monday with these exact words, as the official transcript of Biden's speech confirms.
But most of the posts omit the context of Biden's remarks. His speech was not intended to address the shooting, but was held for a very different event.
As the transcript shows, the president was actually speaking at the Small Business Administration's Women's Business Summit hosted at the White House. Right before Biden started his remarks, the full footage of the event shows President Biden was cheerfully introduced to an audience of women business leaders. Hence, Biden's opening remarks were equally buoyant.
His speech at the business event took place just hours after the shooting, and it was Biden's first official appearance after the incident. The investigation was ongoing at the time.
DW's Washington Bureau Chief Ines Pohl confirms that it is quite common for the president to use such events to comment on breaking news, even if the topic is unrelated. "It would have been very strange if he had not addressed it. Specifically, when it is such a tragedy," said Pohl.
Shortly before his appearance at the business summit, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had already addressed the shooting as the first order of business in a White House press conference, expressing "the president's appreciation for the first responders and prayers for all the families affected by this shooting."
Some social media posts shared a longer video segment Fox News' misleading coverage, showing Fox News interrupting a report on the Nashville shooting to play a live feed from the White House, announcing that Biden would speak on the incident.
Less than a minute into Biden's jovial ice cream remarks, the network interrupted its coverage again to cut to the surprised-looking anchors who stated "We were told he would be addressing this off the top!" The network then continued covering the attack and later broadcast Biden's remarks on the school shooting.
However, even considering the context of his remarks, Biden's public image has suffered considerably, with online social media users describing his remarks as "pathetic" or saying that the president had "something wrong with him."
"To say that he misunderstood the moment would be an understatement," Fox News quoted former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as having said.
Another case of the 'gaffe machine'
"Throughout President Joe Biden's five-decade political career he has suffered from numerous self-inflicted gaffes," says DW's Ines Pohl, noting that Biden had even called himself a "gaffe machine."
"During his time in the senate and as a three-time presidential candidate, he has had numerous hiccups, once being accused of plagiarizing a speech, and once even saying that 'poor kids are just as bright as white kids.'"
Despite his history of gaffes, Biden has survived the backlash each time, just like his predecessor, Donald Trump, Pohl pointed out.