Video does not show CNN debate moderator helping Biden

Joe Biden admitted he does not "debate as well as I used to" after his stumbling performance in the first face-off with Donald Trump of the 2024 US presidential election triggered concerns about his candidacy. But social media posts claiming CNN moderator Dana Bash directed the president where to look are false; the footage shows -- and CNN told AFP -- the journalist was signaling to Trump, who was trying to talk while his microphone was off and her co-moderator Jake Tapper was speaking.

"Watch … Moderators showing Biden where to look during the debate. REPOST - PASS IT ON!" says a June 30, 2024 post on X.

Screenshot from X taken June 1, 2024

The post -- and similar claims spread across X and other platforms -- includes a short, since-deleted TikTok video of Bash pointing her finger to her right as Tapper asked a question. "Nobody is talking about the moderator signaling multiple times to direct his attention," text over the clip says.

The video circulated as the Biden campaign scrambled to assuage concerns among some Democrats about Biden's shaky performance during the June 27 debate with Trump, where the 81-year-old president sometimes lost his train of thought, gave halting responses, or stared blankly with his mouth agape. Polls show Biden's age remains a worry for some voters.

But despite the claims online, Bash was not instructing a confused Biden where to focus his gaze -- the clip is cut deceptively short to omit the context behind her gesture.

Full footage of the CNN debate shows that, after Biden warned about a potential nationwide abortion ban under Trump, the Republican businessman attempted to respond, but his microphone was cut, per the pre-negotiated rules for the broadcast (archived here).

As Tapper began to read a new question on immigration, Bash pointed her finger toward him.

"Dana Bash was signaling to former President Trump, who was trying to speak when it was not his turn and his mic was not turned on, that co-moderator Jake Tapper was moving on to the next question," a CNN spokesperson told AFP in a July 1 email.

Bash also appears in the clip to be looking left toward Trump, who was positioned to Biden's left on the stage.

CNN journalists Jake Tapper and Dana Bash (R) moderate the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections between Joe Biden and Donald Trump at the CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024 (AFP / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

AFP fact-checked several of the candidates' claims from the debate here, here and here.

Read additional reporting on misinformation about the 2024 election here.

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