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Photo appearing to show Biden asleep in Oval Office is fake

February 8, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows President Joe Biden asleep in his seat at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office with a stack of executive orders in front of him.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Altered photo. An image of Biden’s face with his eyes closed has been digitally superimposed onto a photo from Inauguration Day to make it look like the president fell asleep in the Oval Office on his first day in office. Associated Press photos from the event show that Biden was awake and wearing a face mask while sitting at the desk. 

THE FACTS: A social media post circulating widely on Monday claimed to show the newly inaugurated president asleep at his desk, but it used a fabricated image.


A photo of Biden with his eyes closed during a speech in 2011 was flipped and superimposed onto a photo of Biden with a stack of executive orders on his desk on his first day as president on Jan. 20.

Facebook users shared the altered image as part of a larger post criticizing the president’s age and work ethic.

“AMERICA IN DECLINE,” read the original post, which was screen-grabbed and shared thousands of times on Facebook. “This decrepit old grifter works MAYBE five hours a day. We traded in a work horse, for someone that belonged out to pasture or sent to the glue factory a long time ago. Nothing says we threw in the towel better than this nauseating image, the ‘commander in chief’ can’t even stay awake.”

However, a closer look reveals the photo is a composite image: Biden’s head and body originate from different photos.

Biden’s body and the background in the post match AP images from Biden’s first day in office, when he signed a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Numerous photos and videos from that event confirm that Biden was awake — and wearing a black face covering — during the signing process.

Biden’s head in the post appears to have been edited in from a different source altogether: a 2011 photo of Biden appearing to briefly doze off as former President Barack Obama delivered a speech on the national debt. 


This isn’t the first time social media users have falsely claimed Biden fell asleep in public. In September, the AP debunked an altered video that added snoring sound effects and video of Biden’s face with downcast eyes to an old news clip.


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: