Fact check: Image falsely claims to show Harris and Pelosi sleeping during Biden’s speech to Congress

The claim: Image shows Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi sleeping during Joe Biden’s speech

Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made history as the first women to preside together over a joint session of Congress during President Joe Biden’s April 28 address, which was met with misinformation in the hours that followed. 

Biden’s first speech to Congress focused on his first 100 days in office, systematic changes to policing, raising taxes on corporations, immigration legislation and COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Sharing the dais behind the president, Harris and Pelosi, D-Calif, were seen elbow bumping, clapping, giving standing ovations, and according to some social media users, sleeping. 

“Did Biden put them to sleep already?” reads the caption of an April 28 Facebook image with over 5,000 shares and almost 300 reactions. The post includes a purported photo from a news broadcast of the vice president and House speaker seated behind Biden with their eyes closed. 

That same image and text was shared by co-chair of Students for Trump Ryan Fournier in an April 28 Facebook post with over 3,600 shares. 

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user and Fournier for comment. 

Photo is misleading

While the image of Harris and Pelosi is authentic, it is misleading as it shows the two women blinking at the same split second, not sleeping. 

A review of footage from the speech on C-SPAN reveals the photo included in the post was taken near the beginning of Biden’s address when he was discussing his first days in office. 

The scene at mark 5:19 of the C-SPAN video is identical to the photo circulating on social media. Harris’ and Pelosi’s eyes and posture, as well as Biden’s stance and facial expression, match the image in the claim, but at a different angle. 

The perspective in the social media versions of the photo appears warped as it was captured off of a television screen. 

In the photo, Harris and Pelosi had just sat down in their seats after giving Biden a standing ovation when he said, “America is on the move again.” 

At no point during Biden’s roughly 70-minute speech were Harris or Pelosi seen to be closing their eyes and sleeping. Video footage shows them consistently nodding, applauding, sitting and standing. 

Meanwhile, Twitter users also mocked Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who appeared to be fighting sleep during Biden’s remarks.

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Cruz quote tweeted the image of Pelosi and Harris with their eyes closed in response to the criticism and wrote, “Kamala & Nancy agree….#BoringButRadical.” 

Our rating: False

An image claiming to show Harris and Pelosi sleeping during Biden’s speech to Congress is FALSE, based on our research. The photo was captured from a moment where Harris and Pelosi were blinking at the same time. A review of the full 70-minute speech further shows Harris and Pelosi were not sleeping at any point. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • C-SPAN, April 28, Presidential Economic Address
  • USA TODAY, April 28, ‘America is on the move again,’ Biden will say in first speech before Congress
  • USA TODAY, April 28, 2021, Was Ted Cruz really sleeping during Joe Biden’s speech? Twitter has some thoughts
  • Sen. Ted Cruz, April 29, tweet

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