The claim: President Joe Biden blamed Elton John for AIDS
President Joe Biden awarded British singer Elton John the National Humanities Medal on Sept. 23 for his contributions to music and fighting AIDS, a disease caused by HIV that attacks the body’s immune system. But some social media users are misinterpreting one of Biden’s remarks about John.
"Joe Biden blamed Elton John for AIDS and everyone just gave him a free pass for it," reads the Sept. 24 tweet.
Below the tweet is a clip of Biden onstage with John after the medal was presented.
"And, by the way, it’s all his fault that we’re spending $6 billion in taxpayer money this month to help AIDS – fight HIV/AIDS," says Biden
Biden had previously pledged $6 billion in government funding for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, according to the Associated Press.
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Spicer's tweet amassed over 12,000 likes. A Sept. 26 Instagram post with a screenshot of Spicer's tweet also garnered over 37,000 likes before it was corrected. Similar posts have spread widely on Facebook.
But the claim is baseless.
Both the audiences' reactions in the clip and Biden's earlier remarks at the event indicate that he was commending John for fighting AIDS – not blaming him for the disease.
When contacted for comment, Spicer referred USA TODAY to political YouTuber Mahyar Tousi's Sept. 24 tweet, which includes the same clip of Biden's remark. USA TODAY reached out to other social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Biden's words taken out of context
Biden’s remarks throughout the event make it clear that he was acknowledging John for his societal contributions, including his work in combating AIDS.
Before John received the medal, Biden said the singer has led the fight against HIV and AIDS “with sheer will,” and that the fight is “for those lives lost and those lives that we can save,” according to a White House transcript.
After John received the medal, the singer said he will double his efforts to ensure the disease goes away.
"Your kindness – America’s kindness to me as a musician is second to none," John said to Biden. "But in the war against AIDS and HIV, it’s even bigger. And I can’t thank you enough."
Biden’s concluding remark about the $6 billion in AIDS funding was met with applause and cheers from the crowd. John also applauded.
USA TODAY reached out to the White House for comment.
PolitiFact also debunked this claim.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Biden blamed John for AIDS. Biden praised him throughout the event for his fight against HIV and AIDS, and John himself said that he will double his efforts in fighting the disease. Neither the audience's reaction to the comment nor Biden's prior remarks indicate the president was blaming John for AIDS.
Our fact-check sources:
White House Briefing Room, Sept. 24, Remarks by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a Musical Performance by Sir Elton John to Honor Everyday History-Makers
PolitiFact, Sept. 27, Joe Biden didn’t blame Elton John for AIDS
Ballotpedia, accessed Sept. 28, Lavern Spicer
White House Briefing Room, Sept. 21, FACT SHEET: President Biden Raises Record Level Funding for Global Health through Global Fund Seventh Replenishment
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 30, What is HIV?
C-SPAN, Sept. 24, President Biden Awards Elton John with National Humanities Medal
Associated Press, Sept. 20, Global Fund gets powerful help with $18 billion funding goal
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Joe Biden recognized Elton John with humanities award