Strange optical illusion has conspiracy theorists claiming Joe Biden is dead

A video of US President Joe Biden answering questions outside the White House has sparked a bizarre conspiracy that he wasn't actually there, and is actually dead.

The clip, shot on Tuesday (US time) and shared on social media by US political news site The Hill, shows Biden walking towards reporters on the White House front lawn and taking a few questions about the border with Mexico. There has recently been a surge in the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving there. 

But about 10 seconds into the clip, something strange happens - just briefly, one of the reporters' fuzzy boom mics appears to go behind the President's gesticulating hands. 

"This is a green screen," conspiracy theorist @JohnMappin wrote on Twitter to his 156,000 followers. "Watch carefully how his hands go IN FRONT of the microphones."

"Who is in charge of the CGI at the White House?" wrote @theunitedspot22, an account that frequently posts anti-Biden memes. "This is 3rd grade level green screen."

Even a high-ranking former US official in the Trump administration questioned if the video was real.

"Did The Hill photoshop microphones onto this video?" tweeted Sebastian Gorka, former deputy assistant to the President. 

Others suggested Biden, 78, was actually sick or dead - and he had been replaced by a body double; or that he's not at the White House at all because he's not President, a popular false theory amongst adherents of the far-right QAnon movement. One person even suggested he was a hologram. 

Biden - a hologram? No
The odd moment. Photo credit: The Hill

The claims are false. The reporter who was actually holding the microphone - Steve Herman of Voice of America - said it was "all real".

"I was the one holding the lighter-colored fuzzy microphone and thus literally in front of @POTUS on the South Lawn," he tweeted. 

"Who actually believes this 'faked moon landing' type nonsense and more importantly who is spreading it?"

Other videos and photos of the brief chat between Biden and the reporters showed the fuzzy boom mic was actually far to the President's right - creating an optical illusion.

British science writer and professional debunker Mick West recreated the setup in his yard, showing how a large mic positioned in the right spot can appear both in front and behind an interview subject's arms as they move them around. 

"It does look weird, but once you understand what’s going on, it's pretty obvious," he said.

Kiwi post-production expert Dylan Reeve took to Twitter to explain how it can't be a green-screen because the "complexity of what's seen in the video, with zooms and pans that match foreground and background perfectly actually elevate the proposed fakery to a level of technical skill and planning that just makes no sense".

Professional fact-checking agency Politifact rated the green screen claims 'pants on fire' - 100 percent false

It's not the first time in recent history a President has been accused of using a green screen - similar nonsense was alleged against Trump in October 2020.