Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will engage in the first of three presidential debates on Tuesday night. In the hours leading up to the debate, a conspiracy theory emerged that purported that Biden would be wearing an electronic device in his ear during the event, as NBC News reported. In light of this baseless theory, Biden addressed the rumor on Twitter by using a little bit of humor.
This conspiracy theory that Biden would be wearing an earpiece during the first presidential debate was amplified after several conservative news outlets claimed that the Democratic candidate for the presidency backed out of an ear "inspection." The Trump campaign also pushed forward the theory after the matter went viral on social media, as they sent out a text message to supporters in which they claimed that Biden declined to "undergo inspection for electronic ear pieces before debate." Tim Murtagh, the Trump campaign's communications director, even claimed that the Biden camp agreed to the inspection and later backed out. However, the Biden campaign denied that it ever agreed to such an inspection. Additionally, there is no evidence that the former vice president has ever used an earpiece during a debate. On Twitter, Biden poked fun at this baseless theory by posting a photo of his "earpiece," which was a set of headphones, and his "performance enhancers," a tub of ice cream.
It’s debate night, so I’ve got my earpiece and performance enhancers ready. pic.twitter.com/EhOiWdjh1b— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 29, 2020
This latest conspiracy theory that was purported by the Trump campaign is an example of what disinformation experts are calling "trading up the chain."
"When rumors start to circulate, they can easily become fodder for a disinformation campaign when politicians and the news pick them up in tandem," Joan Donovan, the research director at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said. "This creates a feedback loop — trading misinformation up the media chain until we all have to reckon with it."
Biden and Trump are set to discuss several topics during this first debate. The event, which will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, will feature six segments during which the two men will discuss their records, race in the United States, the COVID-19 crisis, the Supreme Court, the economy, and the integrity of the election. This event will be the first of three debates that the two will engage in. The other two debates will fall on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.