Biden did not trip down plane stairs arriving in Poland

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 24, 2023 at 22:55
  • 5 min read
Social media users are claiming a video shows Joe Biden tumbling down the stairs as he disembarked from Air Force One upon arrival in Warsaw, Poland, on February 20, 2023. This is false; other footage shows the US president exiting the aircraft without incident and via a separate ramp, and the White House confirmed a different person fell.

"BREAKING! Biden has landed in the Poland and already fell!" says one February 21 tweet sharing the video, which shows an unidentified person spilling down the jetway attached to the rear of the plane.

Screenshot from Twitter taken February 24, 2023

The television footage was captured after Biden's jet touched down at Warsaw's Chopin Airport, according to Polish-language text in the lower third of the screen.

The president, traveling to Poland on the heels of an unannounced trip to Kyiv, championed democracies worldwide and reaffirmed his support for Ukraine as he spoke in Warsaw days before the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

The same clip of a person falling appeared in similar posts on Twitter and other platforms -- such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Truth Social -- and in languages including French, Spanish, Russian and Dutch.

The posts mocking Biden build on a narrative among his critics that the 80-year-old leader is physically incapable of holding office, recalling previous incidents in which he fell from his bicycle in 2022 and stumbled while boarding Air Force One in 2021.

"Did Joe Biden fall down the stairs of Air Force One AGAIN when landing for his Ukraine visit?!" Newsmax host Benny Johnson wrote in one such tweet sharing the video. "Who is this?"

Biden did briefly lose his footing at another moment during his stint in Poland, tripping as he climbed the stairs to board his aircraft on February 22, before departing Warsaw for Washington.

But the person seen tumbling down the ramp in the video circulating online is not Biden, the White House confirmed to AFP.

"The person falling in that video was not POTUS," said Sean Savett, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in an email, using an acronym for "President of the United States."

AFP photos and footage -- and videos published by other news outlets including ABC News and Sky News -- show Biden's arrival in Poland, in which he descended the steps alone and with no issues. Biden used a ramp attached to an entrance at the front of the aircraft, rather than the rear entrance from which the person could be seen falling while descending the jetway with several others.

US President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at a military airport in Warsaw, Poland, on February 20, 2023 ( AFP / POOL / Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One at a military airport in Warsaw, Poland, on February 20, 2023 ( AFP / POOL / Evan Vucci)



Myth Detector, a fact-checking website in the country of Georgia, reported that Polish broadcaster TVN24's live coverage showed the unidentified person sliding down the rear jetway before the second ramp had been attached to the plane for Biden to exit from the front. Almost four minutes later, the TVN24 broadcast showed Biden walking down the front ramp by himself. An ABC News live stream on Facebook shows the same sequence of events.

Screenshot from Facebook taken February 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP
Screenshot from Facebook taken February 24, 2023, with elements outlined by AFP



The entrance near the nose of Air Force One is typically reserved for the president, his family and special guests, according to CBS News.

Biden and other US presidents can be seen using the front entrance of the plane in AFP footage captured of other trips.

Air Force One, with US President Joe Biden on board, arrives to a military airport in Warsaw, on February 20, 2023 ( AFP / Wojtek RADWANSKI)

AFP could not independently verify the identity of the person who fell and slid to the tarmac. UK newspaper the Independent described the individual as a White House staffer.

Another widespread tweet falsely suggested Biden was visibly injured from falling down the stairs in Poland, sharing the video alongside a picture of what resembled a bruise on the president's forehead.

But the mark was from cross-shaped ashes smudged on Biden's forehead for Ash Wednesday as part of a Christian tradition honoring the start of Lent. The Polish priest who officiated the service posted on Facebook about placing the ashes on Biden's forehead.

AFP previously debunked other misinformation from Biden's trip to Poland here.

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