Likud later claims ex-PM was ridiculing Bennett, not Biden

Repeating debunked claim, Netanyahu mocks Biden for sleeping during Bennett meet

‘I heard that Biden was very attentive,’ former premier chuckles, as he drops his head and closes his eyes in an apparent imitation of the US president broadcast live on Facebook

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu imitating a sleeping US President Joe Biden, in a Facebook Live video, September 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Facebook)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu imitating a sleeping US President Joe Biden, in a Facebook Live video, September 19, 2021. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Opposition leader and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu was filmed Saturday providing a deriding impression of an apparently snoozing US President Joe Biden, as Netanyahu regurgitated a debunked claim that the American leader fell asleep during a meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House last month.

“I heard that Biden was very attentive, very, very attentive during the meeting,” Netanyahu chuckled during a video broadcast live over Facebook, before dropping his head and closing his eyes, in an apparent imitation of the Biden.

“He lowered his head in agreement,” Netanyahu smirked.

Responding to criticism leveled at the impression on social media and in Hebrew media reports following the video, the Likud party put out a statement saying that Netanyahu was mocking the Israeli prime minister, not the US president.

“Contrary to the distorted picture broadcast in the media, former prime minister Netanyahu did not criticize President Biden, whom he has known and cherished as a friend of Israel for 40 years,” a statement from the opposition party read. “His criticism was directed exclusively at Naftali Bennett, who during his visit to the White House spoke at length about nothing.”

The claim that Biden snoozed his way through part of his meeting with Bennett was debunked by a Reuters fact check of the incident, after it was widely disseminated on social media, in the US and Israel, including by a Likud MK.

Biden and Bennett met on August 27, at the White House, after their planned meeting was delayed 24 hours following the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday which killed 13 US military officers.

In clips shared on social media, Biden appeared to have fallen asleep as Bennett was speaking. But those clips had been altered to cut out Biden’s remarks made immediately after he briefly lowered his eyes while listening, Reuters reported.

Observers also noted that Biden’s remarks immediately after Bennett stopped speaking — “You’ve given me credit, much of which should go to Barack Obama, for making sure that we committed to the qualitative edge you would have” — were a direct response to the prime minister’s comments.

Likud MK Galit Distel Atbaryan was among those to share the misleading clip, in a tweet that has accumulated over 5 million views.

Likud MK Galit Distel Etebaryan attends the Jewish Moroccan celebration of Mimouna, in Ma’ale Adumim, on April 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/File)

It was also flagged with a warning from Twitter for sharing “manipulated media.”

During the 2020 presidential election, Biden was dubbed “Sleepy Joe” by his opponent, former president Donald Trump, and critics of the president have repeatedly attempted to share disinformation claiming that Biden had fallen asleep during meetings or at events.

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