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CNN did not confirm unfounded claim that Joe Biden plans to step aside

August 13, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: CNN confirmed that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plans to “step aside” after winning the 2020 election, making Kamala Harris president.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. CNN made no such confirmation. This claim takes a column published on CNN’s website out of context. There is no evidence of any plan for Biden to step down during his presidency.

THE FACTS: A column published Wednesday by CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza is being spun into a false narrative that Biden chose Harris as his running mate not for her vice presidential qualifications, but so he could step down immediately upon becoming president.

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“BOMBSHELL!” read a headline by the Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. “CNN CONFIRMS BIDEN PLANNING TO ‘STEP ASIDE’ AFTER ELECTION, INSTALLING HARRIS.”

A screenshot of the article circulating on Instagram was viewed nearly 15,000 times, and several other right-wing sites published stories about a grand plan to install Harris as president as soon as January 2021.

This claim is false. Cillizza’s column suggested several reasons why Biden may have chosen Harris as his vice presidential nominee, from her experience in government to her ability to tap into the needs of a younger generation. It used the words “step aside” while referring to Biden and Harris, but in a different context.

“What Biden did is make the pick that maximized his chances of continuing to make the race a straight referendum on Trump while also selecting someone, in Harris, whose resume suggests will be ready to step in if and when Biden decides to step aside,” Cillizza wrote.

In the column, Cillizza pointed out Harris’ experience running for president, serving as a senator, and holding the seat of California attorney general as potential reasons Biden may have chosen her. He did not confirm or suggest there is any plan for Biden to relinquish his seat if elected.

As Biden’s vice presidential nominee, Harris would be next in the line of succession to serve as president if Biden won and one day became unable to serve. The Associated Press has previously debunked false claims that Harris is not eligible to be president because of her parents’ national origins.

Cillizza did not respond to a request for comment.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536