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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Harnik) Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Harnik)

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP/Harnik)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy August 24, 2020

Joe Biden gave his convention speech live. Rush Limbaugh’s claim that it ‘had to be taped’ is wrong

If Your Time is short

  • Joe Biden’s convention speech was continuous and lasted nearly 25 minutes.

  • Biden’s speech was carried live by several TV stations, streamed live by multiple news organizations, and attended in person by dozens of people.

  • Biden delivered the speech at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. Roughly three dozen reporters were at the venue, including some who tweeted photos from inside the room. Camera crews, campaign staffers and Secret Service agents were also present.

Former Vice President Joe Biden capped off the virtual Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20 with a nearly 25-minute speech delivered live to a room of reporters, camera crews, campaign staffers and Secret Service agents at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.

In the days since, radio host Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media personalities have falsely claimed that Biden’s speech was pre-taped and edited to remove any mess-ups.

"Some people are of the opinion that it had to be taped and that it had to be taped in segments, and the segments had to be edited together because (Biden) is not capable of 22 minutes even reading a prompter with no screw ups," Limbaugh said Aug. 21 on his radio show

"This is the prevailing theory," Limbaugh added, claiming that he knew some "professional video people" who were studying the footage for evidence that it had been recorded in advance.

Similar claims have spread widely on Twitter and Facebook. The Facebook 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.)

The claims are inaccurate. Biden’s speech was carried live by several cable and broadcast TV channels, streamed live by multiple news organizations, and attended live by dozens of people.

"There were roughly three-dozen reporters, a skeleton camera crew, a handful of Secret Service agents and a smattering of campaign staff," ABC News reporter John Verhovek wrote in a report describing what the experience was like for the reporters who were in the room.

Verhovek described receiving two negative COVID-19 tests and going through a "security sweep, temperature check and 45-minute wait" before entering the "cavernous room" with "a massive camera set up pointed directly at a wooden podium."

Joe Biden is shown from above as he speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, 2020, at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. (AP)

Some supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee watched the speech from their cars as it was displayed on a screen in a nearby parking lot.

Featured Fact-check

Verhovek tweeted out photos and lines from Biden’s speech as he spoke, as well as a video of Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, interacting with supporters afterward through video feeds.

Other reporters have also tweeted proof that they were inside the venue, including Buzzfeed News’ Ruby Cramer, the Washington Post’s Annie Linskey, the New York Times’ Katie Glueck, the Wall Street Journal’s Ken Thomas, the Daily Beast’s Hanna Trudo, CNN’s Sara Mucha, the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere, and CBS News’ Bo Erickson.

One widespread tweet making the false claim that Biden pre-recorded his speech came from John Cardillo, a conservative media personality and former New York City police officer. 

Cardillo shared three photos of Biden. Two were taken during Biden’s speech. The third was snapped later, while Biden and Harris were outside for the fireworks display. 

Cardillo wrongly claimed that Biden was wearing a pin in the first two photos but not in the third photo, and a wristwatch in the third but not in the first two. He cited that as evidence that Biden’s speech must have been pre-recorded in multiple segments that were later stitched together. 

But the photos Cardillo plucked out were cherry-picked and misleading. The same argument — and photos — formed the basis of similarly inaccurate claims on Facebook.

Video footage of Biden outside with Harris for the fireworks shows him wearing the very same pin that Cardillo claimed had disappeared from his suit. And the watch, which was clearly visible when Biden and Harris joined arms outside and raised them, was likely hidden beneath Biden’s sleeve for most of the speech, when his arms weren’t outstretched in the same way.

At one point during the speech, the watch on Biden’s wrist could briefly be seen glimmering under his sleeve. It was also visible for a moment after the speech as Biden, Harris and their spouses waved to supporters shown on a video wall behind the podium. 

Between the speech, the interaction with supporters on screen, and the walk outside for the display of fireworks, Biden’s outfit never changed. (He did put on a mask before going outside.)

Limbaugh did not respond to a request for comment.

Our ruling

Limbaugh said Biden’s convention speech "had to be taped in segments, and the segments had to be edited together."

The nearly 25-minute speech was continuous. It was carried live on TV stations, streamed live online and delivered live for a room of reporters, camera crews, campaign staffers and Secret Service agents in Wilmington. Multiple reporters shared photos from inside the venue.

We rate Limbaugh’s claim Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

The Rush Limbaugh Show, ""Did You Hear All These Flubs in Biden’s Speech?" Aug. 21, 2020

John Cardillo on Twitter, Aug. 22, 2020

Facebook post, Aug. 22, 2020

The Dispatch Fact Check, "Was Joe Biden’s Speech Recorded Rather Than Delivered Live?" Aug. 24, 2020

ABC News, "Covering Biden's history-making speech in the middle of a pandemic: Reporter's Notebook," Aug. 21, 2020

Various tweets from reporters, Aug. 20, 2020

C-Span on YouTube, "Joe Biden Acceptance Speech at 2020 Democratic National Convention," Aug. 20, 2020

2020 Democratic National Convention on YouTube, "Democratic National Convention: Day 4," Aug. 20, 2020

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More by Bill McCarthy

Joe Biden gave his convention speech live. Rush Limbaugh’s claim that it ‘had to be taped’ is wrong

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