Photo shows Trump shaking hand, not being helped off stage

Critics of Donald Trump are claiming a photo shows someone physically guiding him by the hand as he walks offstage after a campaign event. This is false; the picture depicts a brief moment when the former US president grasped his son's hand before exiting a 2023 rally without assistance.

"Trump has to hold someone’s hand to guide him off stage," progressive podcast host Brian Tyler Cohen said in a June 16, 2024 Facebook post. "Cognitive decline?"

Screenshot from X taken June 20, 2024

Similar posts have shared the image across Threads, Instagram and X.

The claims come amid voter concerns about age ahead of the November presidential election.

Republicans have flooded the internet with out-of-context videos of US President Joe Biden, using what the White House has characterized as deceptive editing tactics to cast the 81-year-old as infirm. In one recent example, the White House pushed back on claims that a video showed ex-president Barack Obama guiding Biden off stage after a fundraiser.

Some social media users directly referenced the attacks on Biden while sharing the image of his predecessor.

"I can’t imagine why they keep falsifying photos and video of Biden," Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko said in a June 17 post on Threads. "It’s almost like an attempt to distract while still projecting as always."

But the picture of Trump -- who has made Biden's age a top campaign issue despite being just three years younger at 78 -- is likewise misrepresented.

A reverse image search revealed Reuters took the photo at a November 2023 rally in Hialeah, Florida (archived here).

"Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump holds Donald Trump Jr's hand as he walks during a campaign rally at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah, Florida, U.S. November 8, 2023," the caption says.

However, livestream footage shows the interaction lasted about one second (archived here). After grasping his son's hand briefly, the Republican businessman continued down the ramp without any assistance.

Steven Cheung, the Trump campaign's communications director, told AFP in a June 20, 2024 email that the image is a "cheap fake" -- a term misinformation experts coined to describe content altered using basic and affordable technology.

The Biden campaign has repeatedly used the same term to characterize misleading videos of the Democrat.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about US politics here.

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