Fact check: Trump ad edits out microphone and trees from Biden photo to make him seem alone in basement

A new ad from President Donald Trump’s campaign deceptively alters a photo of former Vice President Joe Biden campaigning outdoors in Iowa to make it seem as if Biden is “hiding” in his Delaware basement.

The ad also uses two other images in misleading ways: one of Biden at an Iowa house party and one of Biden praying at a Delaware church.

Biden has certainly campaigned cautiously amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading Trump in the polls even as he has limited his public appearances. Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertions, though, Biden has made numerous campaign trips outside his Delaware home.

The forehead photo

After the ad’s narrator claims Biden is “alone” and “hiding” in the basement, the ad shows a photo of Biden, in sunglasses, looking down and touching his forehead in what appears to be an empty room.

Facts First: This image was edited in two important ways. The real photo, taken by Mark Peterson, shows Biden holding a microphone at an outdoor town hall event at a nature preserve in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in September 2019, during the Democratic primary. The microphone is gone in the ad’s version of the photo. So are the trees in the background of the shot, which the ad replaces with an indoor setting more suggestive of a basement.

The floor photo

As the words “alone” and “hiding” flash on screen, the ad shows Biden sitting on a floor with an empty chair in the background.

Facts First: Biden was not alone or at his Delaware home. Rather, this photo is from a party Biden attended in December 2019 at the home of Coralville, Iowa, Mayor John Lundell to watch the Holiday Bowl college football game. There were a bunch of other people in the room — both party guests and journalists, including CNN reporter Sarah Mucha.

The church photo

The ad concludes with the narrator attacking Biden for his policy record and saying he “never will” have answers to tough questions. It shows Biden looking downward, wearing a face mask, with his hands clasped as if feeling defeated.

Facts First: As Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel noted, this photo is of Biden praying at an African Methodist Episcopal church in Delaware on June 1 following the death of George Floyd.

It’s common practice for attack ads to make use of downcast photos of political opponents, but it’s notable that the Trump campaign is trying to make Biden look bad with a photo of him in a solemn religious moment.