October 1, 2021

When President Joe Biden received a coronavirus vaccine booster shot recently, some social media users sought to paint it as a fake event, pointing to the backdrop behind Biden. The posts include photographs of the event showing Biden on a stage, sitting in front of a backdrop of white columns and windows, with reporters and photographers nearby.

One Instagram post captioned it this way: “Fake president, in a fake White House, receiving fake booster.”

(Screenshot)

Another Facebook post showed a different view of the event with the caption, “Joe Biden using a fake White House backdrop is so on brand for him.” And another Facebook post alleged, “They created a fake set for Biden to get his booster shot. The entire Biden presidency is one giant charade.”

(Screenshot)

The posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Our research uncovered no evidence that the White House intended to mislead anyone by using the windows-and-white-columns background. The backdrop had already been used in one official event five days before Biden received his booster shot.

The booster shot was held in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex but separate from the White House itself.

The auditorium is used often for White House media events. Since early this summer, it has hosted Biden’s remarks on the June jobs report, a bill signing, a meeting on Western wildfires, and Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks on broadband. It’s bigger than the White House press room where the press secretary’s daily briefings are held, so it’s better suited to some events.

Raw footage of the booster shot event uploaded by NBC News shows Biden making remarks on vaccinations at a lectern in the auditorium, then walking across the stage to a chair where he received the vaccination. Behind him was a backdrop featuring white walls and columns, along with “windows” seemingly looking out toward the White House itself. After the event, Biden took a few questions.

President Joe Biden receives a COVID-19 booster shot during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Another image, which was used in some of the Facebook posts, shows reporters and photographers documenting the event. It was taken by D.C.-based freelance news photographer Brendan Smialowski.

Here’s another view of the auditorium, from a screenshot pulled from the NBC video footage.

(Screenshot)

The wall-and-column set wasn’t built specifically for the booster shot event. It was a holdover from an event five days earlier, when Biden addressed a virtual summit of world leaders to address the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a photograph of Biden at that Aug. 22 summit.

President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual COVID-19 summit during the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

There’s no indication that anyone in the Biden administration tried to pass this off event as being held inside the White House itself. The physical location of the booster shot was emailed to White House reporters in advance of the event and is listed on the transcript of the remarks that remain on the White House website.

Our ruling

Social media posts said the White House “created a fake set for (President Joe) Biden to get his booster shot.”

There was nothing misleading about the event’s staging. Biden received his vaccination in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a frequent venue for White House news events and photo ops. Publicly available video footage shows the entire event, including Biden’s walk from a lectern to the chair set up for his vaccination, and that it was held in the presence of reporters and photographers.

In addition, the backdrop wasn’t “created” for the booster event at all —  it had been used five days earlier for a global coronavirus summit.

We rate the statement False.

This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources here and more of their fact checks here.

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Louis Jacobson has been with PolitiFact since 2009, currently as senior correspondent. Previously, he served as deputy editor of Roll Call and as founding editor…
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  • “There was nothing misleading about the event’s staging. ”

    As someone who took journalism and who has been a photographer for a very long time, how can you write that about a set that is created to look like something else, which was cropped (most unfortunately) by photographers and the media to look like the intended fake location?