Did President Biden cleverly rig the Super Bowl so the Kansas City Chiefs won?
“I'd be in trouble if I told him,” Biden joked in his campaign's inaugural post on TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media platform that has 170 million American users but few high-level American politicians.
The video then cut to an image of the “Dark Brandon” meme, another attempt by the campaign to spin a right-wing conspiracy theory.
Biden's arrival on TikTok and the light-hearted nature of his post signaled his continued attempts to rebuild his support among young voters. After weeks in which her advisers had hinted that she would join the platform, her campaign pushed the button on her first video during the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
The 30-second clip showed the president dodging questions from an off-screen inquisitor.
Who would win the big game? (He dodged and noted Jill Biden's Philadelphia Eagles fanaticism.)
Which Kelce brother did you prefer? (Again, a diplomatic response: “Mama Kelce.”)
And was he really responsible for a vast conspiracy theory floated on the far right that posited that the White House and the NFL had colluded to help the Chiefs win the game and somehow help his re-election campaign? (Please indicate “Dark Brandon.” Mr. Biden also shared an image of the meme on X shortly after the game, writing: “Just the way we designed it.”)
Joining TikTok is a major pivot for Biden's re-election campaign, which had officially maintained that it did not need its own TikTok account to reach voters and would instead work through influencers.
The move also carries a degree of risk: TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and is banned on government devices in most states and at the federal level. Republicans especially, but also Democrats and national security experts, have expressed concern about the control that China's authoritarian government could exert over the data and platform content shown to Americans. TikTok has rejected those concerns.
The Biden campaign said Monday that it was taking “advanced security precautions around our devices and incorporating sophisticated security protocol to ensure safety.”
Such wariness about the platform has contributed to the reluctance of politicians and their campaigns to join TikTok, despite the app's growing influence. In December, only 37 sitting members of Congress were on the app and there were no official accounts for @POTUS, the White House or Biden 2024, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
Among the Republican presidential candidates, only Vivek Ramaswamy had his own account. He dropped out of the race last month.
The app, once known for its viral dance videos, has increasingly become a source of news and information, particularly for younger Americans. About 14 percent of American adults said they regularly received news from TikTok last year, up from 3 percent in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.
Last month, campaign officials celebrated when a TikTok video made by a North Carolina teenager whose home Biden visited garnered millions of views on the platform.
It remains an open question whether Biden's campaign can make the 81-year-old president look attractive on the platform. In Sunday's post, Biden was wearing khaki pants and a blue sweater with a microphone attached to the zipper. The questions came from Rob Flaherty, deputy campaign manager, according to a campaign official.
The post had received 4.5 million views as of Monday morning, according to TikTok.
While TikTok does not allow paid political advertising, several campaigns have successfully used the app to build a relationship with potential voters and help win elections. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., for example, counted TikTok among the tools he used to defeat Dr. Mehmet Oz in the 2022 midterm elections.
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