After claiming shortly before the first presidential debate on Tuesday that former Vice President Joe Biden reneged on a commitment to undergo an earpiece inspection before the debate – a claim denied by the Biden campaign – the Trump campaign ran Facebook ads on Thursday with a picture of the Democratic candidate photoshopped to make it look as though he did indeed wear an earpiece.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh claimed in a statement that Biden aides “agreed to a pre-debate inspection for electronic earpieces” but “abruptly reversed themselves and declined,” adding that they also “asked for multiple breaks during the debate.”
The Biden campaign denied both claims, with Kate Bedingfield shooting back on a press call that the earpiece claims were “completely absurd,” adding, “Of course he’s not wearing an earpiece, and we never asked for breaks.”
But the Trump campaign embraced the claim, with several campaign staffers questioning why he ostensibly wouldn’t submit to an inspection and tweeting the hashtag “#CheckJoesEars.”
Facebook’s ad library shows the Trump campaign ran several now-inactive ads on Thursday, two days after the debate, claiming Biden was “begging” for breaks and demanding, “CHECK JOE’S EARS!”
Several of these ads include photos of Biden with an AirPod apparently photoshopped into Biden’s ear – contrasted with ads featuring the same photo without an AirPod – asking “WHO IS IN JOE’S EAR?”
Forbes has reached out to the Trump and Biden campaigns, as well as Facebook, for comment.
Earpiece accusations have a storied history in presidential elections dating back to 2000, when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh alleged then-Democratic nominee Al Gore of wearing one during a Meet The Press appearance — it was actually a standard mic pack used for television interviews. George W. Bush 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 both faced claims they wore earpieces at debates, while Donald Trump Jr. accused Hillary Clinton of wearing one during a debate in 2016.
If Facebook were to take down the ads, which have been slammed by some commentators as misinformation, it would be the second Trump ad in two days to be removed by Facebook. On Wednesday, Facebook said it removed a 15-second Trump campaign spot pushing an unproven connection between admitting refugees and the transmission of Covid-19.
In a now-deleted tweet, Trump campaign rapid response staffer Jake Schneider responded to this reporter’s tweet about the AirPod ad by pointing to a button from the Biden campaign that photoshopped aviator sunglasses onto a 2012 campaign photo of Biden and said “haven’t seen any coverage about that.”
“The ‘Biden is doping’ and ‘Biden might be wearing an earpiece’ nuttiness is only newsworthy in so far that Team Trump is planting excuses in case Trump has a poor debate tonight,” CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter tweeted before the debate. “Excuses that most people will ignore but Trump’s super-fans will embrace.”
48%. That’s the share of likely voters who said in a CBS News/YouGov poll conducted Tuesday night that Biden won the debate, compared to 41% who said Trump. Most polls showed similar results: Biden was seen as the victor by a 12-point margin in a Data for Progress poll and by a 32-point margin in a CNN poll of debate watchers.