Time delays, Adderall and earpieces: Trump and right-wing media spread conspiracy theories before Biden debate

Donald Trump, his allies and right-wing media are whipping up conspiracy theories that his rival Joe Biden is using amphetamines, slamming Mountain Dew and using a secret earpiece for their 2024 debate.

Other bogus claims have accused debate host network CNN of delaying the broadcast by up to two minutes.

In a now-deleted post on X that was shared thousands of times, Donald Trump Jr falsely claimed that CNN is delaying the tape and that the president is “jacked up” on drugs.

House Speaker Mike Johnson even suggested Biden is downing “a whole gallon of energy drinks” to prepare for Thursday night’s debate, while other GOP members have accused the president of taking “mind-altering stimulants” or getting his aides to “jack him up on Mountain Dew.”

“How much Adderall are they going to give him?” South Carolina Republican Representative Nancy Mace said on Newsmax on Thursday. “How many vitamins is he gonna be on?”

Unsubstantiated claims targeting Democratic candidates before the debates are nothing new – bogus conspiracy theories about performance-enhancing drugs and illicit “earpieces” have been a part of the right-wing media playbook for the last two decades.

The latest batch of evidence-free claims – an apparent attempt to preemptively discredit Biden before he takes the stage – have also attacked CNN, while ignoring the fact that Trump’s campaign has agreed to the terms of the debate set by the network.

President Joe Biden greets supporters in Atlanta on June 27 ahead of the first presidential debate against Donald Trump (REUTERS)
President Joe Biden greets supporters in Atlanta on June 27 ahead of the first presidential debate against Donald Trump (REUTERS)

But they join a long-running campaign to spread bogus statements in the hopes that media outlets pick them up to debunk them, thereby legitimizing them.

Republican Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee – who even introduced a “No Juicing Joe” bill – said the president should be required to report “every time he takes a mind-altering stimulant like he’s gonna have to do before the debate.”

“They’re gonna have him juiced up and jacked up,” he told conservative channel, Newsmax, this week.

Speaking to Missouri Representative Eric Burlison, Fox News personality Maria Bartiromo said “they’re probably experimenting with getting doses right, giving Biden medicine ahead of the debate.”

Burlison suggested Biden’s aides “are gonna jack him up on Mountain Dew or whatever it is.”

Trump’s former physician and current Republican Representative Ronny Jackson, who is accused of dispensing controlled substances to ineligible staffers in the White House during Trump’s presidency, called for Biden to submit to a drug test.

So have Trump and his campaign.

“DRUG TEST JOE BIDEN,” demanded a campaign fundraising email, signed by Trump, on June 24. “When we debate, his handlers in the White House will get him all hopped up so he can stay alert on stage.”

Donald Trump arrives in Atlanta for the first 2024 presidential debate with President Joe Biden on June 27 (REUTERS)
Donald Trump arrives in Atlanta for the first 2024 presidential debate with President Joe Biden on June 27 (REUTERS)

Trump was also pushing the conspiracy to supporters at a rally in Philadelphia earlier this month,

“So, a little before debate time, he gets a shot in the ass,” he said. “They want to strengthen him up. So he comes out. He’ll come out. OK. I say, he’ll come out all jacked up, right?”

Hours before the debate, Fox News accused the Biden campaign of “dodging” questions about whether the president is using drugs, despite his campaign explicitly telling the network that the claims are “obviously” false.

Trump’s press secretary Karoline Leavitt told Fox that the former president “has naturally elite stamina and doesn’t need performance-enhancing drugs.”

“Unlike Joe Biden,” she added, “who many are saying will be drugged up for the debate like he was at the State of the Union.”

The claims are nothing new. Similar unsubstantiated statements flooded social media and right-wing networks for months in the wake of Biden’s State of the Union address.

Bogus statements – including Trump’s accusation that Biden is “jacked up” on drugs – quickly spread. Trump at one point even suggested that Biden was using cocaine.

Trump’s allies are also reviving an age-old line of attack that Biden will be using an earpiece to communicate with aides during the debate – pulling from a conspiracy playbook that was used by Republican figures and right-wing media over the last two decades.

“No ear pieces!” right-wing operative Roger Stone wrote on X. “Trump should demand that Biden be carefully inspected to ensure that he is not wearing some deeply embedded high-tech earpiece before the beginning of the CNN debate.”

In 2020, Trump’s campaign sent text messages to supporters promoting the conspiracy theory that Biden “declined an earpiece inspection” before a debate.

His campaign even took out Facebook ads that year featuring a doctored image of Biden wearing an oversized earpiece alongside the message “Who’s in Joe’s ear?”

Right-wing media also falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton wore an earpiece at a candidate forum in 2016, and again at her first debate against then-candidate Trump. Widely circulated chain emails in 2012 accused Barack Obama of wearing a device in a debate against Mitt Romney, and conservative bloggers suggested he did the same at a debate in 2008.