Misinterpreted photo of Biden kneeling with Israeli officials
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The claim: Joe Biden knelt before Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
A photo of President Joe Biden kneeling in a meeting with Israeli officials is misinterpreted to suggest the gesture was an oath of loyalty.
Posts circulating on Instagram and Facebook show Biden on one knee, his head bowed as outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and his chief of staff, Rivka Ravitz, look down on him during a White House meeting on June 28.
The messages indicated that the photo shows the president as he “kneels in front of” Rivlin, but that is not true. The photo is genuine, but the claimed context is incorrect.
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Multiple media reported that Biden knelt down in respect for Ravitz being the mother of 12 children. None of them mention the act as a gesture of support for Israel or Rivlin.
One version of the claim, a screenshot of a tweet shared on Instagram on July 6, has racked up more than 2,500 likes.
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USA TODAY has contacted users who shared the complaint on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Meeting at the White House
Rivlin and Ravitz were in the White House for Rivlin’s last overseas trip as president before he was replaced by the country’s new president, Isaac Herzog.
While the photo shows Biden kneeling in front of Rivlin and Ravitz, the context offered in various reporters’ accounts shows that he did not kneel “before” Rivlin as these messages claim.
The gesture was actually aimed at Ravitz, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
During the meeting, Rivlin told Biden that Ravitz oversaw a family of 13 in addition to his duties as chief of staff, according to the newspaper. Biden, a father of four, responded by kneeling in front of Ravitz “to express his admiration,” the newspaper reported.
The moment was captured in a photo credited to Haim Zach in the Israeli government press office.
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Reuters quoted several Israeli reporters as confirming that Biden knelt down after learning of the existence of Ravitz’s large family. Israeli media outlet Yedioth Ahronoth tweeted the photo on July 2, saying Biden had “jokingly” knelt in front of Ravitz after learning she was a mother of 12. It seems to match the mood shown in the photo, as Rivlin and Ravitz are both smiling.
Ravitz told Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav Meir that Biden also showed him a photo of his mother after kneeling, according to the journalist’s Facebook post on July 4.
Reports from the meeting said Biden told Rivlin that the United States would not tolerate a nuclear Iran.
None of these accounts mention Biden’s kneeling as a pledge of “unconditional support.” Biden has expressed support for Israel, but not to this extreme.
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Rather, Biden “expressed his unwavering support” for Israel during his meeting with Rivlin, according to a White House reading released after the meeting.
Our rating: False
The claim that Biden knelt in front of Rivlin is FALSE, based on our research. Biden did not kneel “before” Rivlin, he did so as a show of playful respect for Ravitz, who is the mother of 12 children.
Our sources of fact-checking:
- The Associated Press, July 8, photo showing Biden kneeling to respect the assistant to the Israeli president
- Times of Israel, June 27, On his last trip as president, Rivlin travels to the United States to meet with Biden and Pelosi
- Haaretz, July 7 Isaac Herzog is sworn in as Israel’s 11th president and pledged to act against “baseless hatred”
- Haaretz, July 4, Biden kneels before Rivlin’s ultra-Orthodox aide after learning she has 12 children
- Reuters, July 8, Fact Check-Photo does not show Biden kneeling in front of Israeli president “pledging to support”
- Twitter, July 2 Yedioth Ahronoth
- Facebook, July 4, Sivan Rahav Meir
- The White House, June 28, reading by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Meeting with President Reuven Rivlin of Israel
- The Associated Press, June 28, Biden tells Israeli president he won’t tolerate nuclear Iran
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Our fact-checking work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.