Not Real News

President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Nov. 15. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online spreading falsehoods about why the presidential seal on Biden’s desk was blurred in a recent video that was shared on Vice President Kamala Harris’ Twitter account.

CLAIM: Vice President Kamala Harris’ Twitter account blurred the presidential seal on President Joe Biden’s desk in a recent video because Biden isn’t really the president.

THE FACTS: This video of Biden signing the $1 trillion “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” was first posted by the Democratic National Committee, which intentionally blurred the seal to avoid conflicting with a federal statute that limits how individuals can use the seal, according to DNC Deputy Communications Director Daniel Wessel.

Harris’ personal Twitter account re-shared the video on Tuesday. The video fueled a flurry of conspiracy theories on social media, with numerous Twitter users falsely claiming the blurred seal must mean Biden is not the legitimate U.S. president.

The federal statute, U.S. Code 713, says the presidential seal can only be used for official government business. Though legal experts disagree on the boundaries of appropriate use in accordance with the law, it’s become common practice for candidates and political parties to blur the presidential seal in campaign-related posts and on campaign accounts, according to Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington.

The DNC has blurred the presidential seal in other recent Twitter posts, including in a video on Nov. 6 that Biden’s personal Twitter account re-shared. Former President Donald Trump also has shared videos with the seal blurred when using the posts for campaign purposes.

The Trump Organization faced criticism in 2018 when replicas of the seal were displayed at one of its golf courses, violating federal law. The club removed the replicas and explained they had been gifts from members. Some social media users sharing Harris’ post also pointed to a woman seen clapping behind Biden in the video.

Hundreds of Twitter users falsely claimed the woman’s rapidly moving hands appeared to go “through” Biden’s face. The Associated Press closely reviewed multiple versions of the video and found no such glitch or oddity. While Harris’ clapping hands in the video cast a shadow on the front of Biden’s face, the woman behind him remained behind him for the entire clip.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.