Fact check: Video of Biden discussing Jesus, the American Revolution and airports is missing context

The claim: Biden said Jesus’s biggest problem during the Revolutionary War was not having enough airports 

President Joe Biden’s persistent gaffes have frequently served as ammunition for his critics.

One recent meme plucks one sentence from a speech to take aim at Biden’s mental prowess.

“The same stable Jesus said that the biggest problem we had in the revolutionary war, is we didn’t have enough airports,” reads the text in a viral video of Biden speaking.

User @one2many8673 first shared the video to TikTok on May 25. By May 30, the video had more than 5.8 million views on the platform. It has since spread elsewhere on social media. 

A May 26 Instagram post captioned the video, “Is this even English???”.

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But the line attributed to Biden is both misquoted and misleading. The full context behind the statement shows Biden was in fact referencing prior gaffes from now-former President Donald Trump, not making his own.

The Instagram account that shared the video did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. The original TikTok account could not be messaged. 

Biden’s full speech shows he was referencing Trump’s words

The clip comes from Biden’s Oct. 29 campaign speech at a drive-in rally in Tampa, Florida. C-SPAN footage and transcripts of that speech reveal then-candidate Biden was discussing Trump’s past statements.

Here’s the full context:

“Donald Trump when he thinks of climate change, he says hoax. Well, guess what? Speaking of hoaxes, remember what he said about these increasing violent hurricanes and the frequency? He actually said, maybe we should detonate a nuclear bomb over the Atlantic. By the way, the same stable genius who said, the biggest problem we had in the Revolutionary War is we didn’t have enough airports. Whoa. Man, I tell you, what. His answer to families in Puerto Rico, struggling through Hurricane Maria was, what would he do? Toss rolls of paper towels at them. He doesn’t have any real answers.”

After making the statement about the Revolutionary War, Biden blessed himself and sighed.

Biden is referencing several different Trump statements that drew widespread derision.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hit President Donald Trump on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as climate change, in a speech that was cut short by a heavy rain in Tampa, Fla. (Oct. 29)

AP Domestic

July 2019: Trump says troops shut down airports during the Revolutionary War

 In 2019, Trump made headlines after he said American troops in the Revolutionary War “took over the airports” during his July 4 speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

“Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do, and at Fort McHenry, under the rocket’s red glare it had nothing but victory,” he said. “And when dawn came, their star-spangled banner waved defiant.”

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at the "Salute to America" Fourth of July event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., July 4, 2019. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN, AFP/Getty Images)

This comment garnered criticism as the Revolutionary War ended in 1783 and planes were not invented until the early 20th century. Powered aircrafts were not used in wars until 1911. 

August 2019: Report says Trump asked to stop hurricanes with bombs

Biden’s comment about using nuclear bombs to fight hurricanes refers to 2019 reports.

Axios reported on Aug. 25, 2019, that Trump had repeatedly asked senior Homeland Security officials if they could drop nuclear bombs into the eyes of incoming hurricanes before they hit the east coast.

Experts agree nuclear weaponry is not a feasible solution for extreme weather.

Fact check: Image claiming to show Joe Biden with White House press secretary has been altered twice

In response to the reports, Trump called the report “ridiculous” and “more FAKE NEWS.”

Trump repeatedly called himself ‘stable genius’

The post misquotes Biden to say “stable Jesus,” when he actually said “stable genius” in reference to Trump’s past remarks about himself.

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Throughout his presidency, Trump repeatedly referred to himself as a “stable genius.” The first instance was in January 2018 after Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” raised the question whether he was mentally unfit for office. 

Our rating: Missing context

We rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that Biden said, “The same stable Jesus said that the biggest problem we had in the revolutionary war, is we didn’t have enough airports,” because without additional information it is misleading. Video and transcripts from Biden’s full speech show he was criticizing comments Trump made in 2019. And Biden did not say “stable Jesus.” He said“stable genius” in reference to a label Trump had repeatedly applied to himself. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, May 6, Fact check: Biden didn’t reference building rail line from ‘Florida to Tampa’
  • C-SPAN, Oct. 29, 2020, Joe Biden Drive-In Campaign Rally in Tampa
  • Rev, Oct. 29, 2020, Joe Biden Campaign Rally Speech Transcript Tampa, FL October 29
  • Time Magazine, July 5, 2019, President Trump Said Revolutionary War Troops ‘Took Over the Airports’ in His Fourth of July Speech
  • USA TODAY, July 4, 2019, Donald Trump trips up on history in 4th of July speech, mentions airports during Revolutionary War
  • Britannica, accessed May 30, American Revolution
  • Britannica, accessed May 30, History of flight
  • Britannica, accessed May 30, Air warfare
  • USA TODAY, Aug. 26, 2019, You can’t nuke a hurricane to stop it, as Trump reportedly suggested. Here’s why
  • Axios, Aug. 25, 2019, Scoop: Trump suggested nuking hurricanes to stop them from hitting U.S.
  • USA TODAY, July 11, 2019, Trump says he’s ‘so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius’ in tweet bashing 2020 Dems

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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