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Biden acknowledges the audience after he ends his speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, April 14, 2022. (AP) Biden acknowledges the audience after he ends his speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, April 14, 2022. (AP)

Biden acknowledges the audience after he ends his speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, April 14, 2022. (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles April 19, 2022

Biden was gesturing towards his audience, not shaking hands with “thin air”

If Your Time is short

  • After the end of his speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Biden turned around and gestured towards the onlookers to his right, who rose to applaud him. He wasn’t trying to shake hands with an imaginary person.

  • Biden was at the university to speak about his administration’s efforts on economic renewal, and to visit the campus’ new engineering and innovation complex.

When President Joe Biden visited North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the country’s largest historically Black university, he toured the campus’ new engineering and research complex with students, faculty and U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning. He then delivered a speech about supply chain disruptions, economic renewal and his administration’s Build Back Better agenda. 

But there’s one thing he didn’t do that social media posts are claiming he did:

"After Biden finished his speech today, he turned around and tried to shake hands with thin air and then wandered around looking confused," radio station WDBO posted April 14 on Facebook. "Do you fear our president is incapacitated?" 

Facebook flagged the post and others like it on its platform in an effort to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The claim also appeared on YouTube and Twitter, shared by Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. It even appeared on Instagram, where Snoop Dogg shared the video and claim with his followers. 

We took a look at those clips and the full videos of Biden’s speech. They don’t add up to the claim that he was trying to shake hands with thin air — different angles show that he was gesturing toward onlookers behind him.

A C-SPAN video of Biden’s entire speech shows an angle from Biden’s right side — after he finished speaking at the 53 minute mark, he turned to those gathered to his right behind him and pointed his hand at them as they stood up to applaud. He then turned to his left and did the same to those seated on that side, who also stood and clapped. Biden smiled at both sides before walking down the ramp towards the audience in front of the podium. 

C-SPAN video of Biden's speech at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, April 14, 2022

 

A YouTube video from WFMY News 2 from Greensboro, North Carolina, shows Biden briefly speaking to audience members before walking out of the room flanked by Secret Service agents. 

The International Business Times also found this claim to have holes. We reached out to the White House, as well as North Carolina A&T State University for their input. Neither responded in time to a request for comment. 

The clips of Biden gesturing to those seated in the audience are being misconstrued to appear as if he was trying to shake hands with air. We rate this claim False.

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Biden was gesturing towards his audience, not shaking hands with “thin air”

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