Fact-checking Viral Claim On President Joe Biden’s Age, Other World Leaders

Olakunle Mohammed


Our fact-checker came across a forwarded message on one of his WhatsApp groups on Friday, January 22, 2021.

The broadcast read:

“AS YOU INSULT YOUR ELDERS AND WISH THEM DEATH, KNOW THIS:

“Joe Biden is 77 years old and just elected US President. Trump is his close agemate….no American youth have insulted any of them on grounds of age.

“Nancy Pelosi is 90 years and Speaker of US House of Reps.

“Joe Biden was Senator for 37 years before contesting Vice Presidency with Obama tcket.

“Singapore current leader was elected at the age of 90 years. No one is insulting him. He was even a former military leader for long

“One family has been ruling United Arab Emirates…..today some of you prefer to spend your holiday in Dubai.

“One family rules Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar, Bahrain, North Korea…these are highly developed countries.

“The Head of State and Commander in Chief of Britain is Queen Elizabeth, she is more than 90 years. They respect their tradition and wants us to jettison our own. They don’t insult elders.

“The post of British Prime Minister does not have term limits. Most of them are elders. You can continue to be Prime Minister as long as your party is in control……there is no general election to elect British Prime Minister., The ruling party decides. Is that democracy? But in Africa they  insist that we must change our leaders every four years.

“Putin has been President of Russia for 26 years.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is the longest serving leader of Israel from Likud parry. He is in his late 70s but you love him because it is Israel.

“Angela Merkel has ruled Germany for 16 years. She is over 80.

“Shinzo Abe remains Japanese Prime Minister since some of you became adults. No Japanese insults him on grounds of age. Youths are not even allowed the lead Japan.

“Xi Jiping is Chinese endless leader…..they respect him despite his age.

“Naranda Modi is 90 years and longest serving Prime Mimister of India. He is still in office.

“The above are the countries that prefer Africa to elect the  likes of Omoyele Sowore every four years and destroy our elders. Don’t they have youths too?

The broadcast concluded with the anecdote to: “PAUSE AND PONDER” and signed, “by Allwell Ndubuaku.”

An internet search for this broadcast revealed that it has been in circulation on Facebook since January 17 and it was first shared by Aremo Tunde Salam around 4.26 pm. As of the time of filing this report, Salam’s post had 22 shares, 54 reactions and 62 comments.

CLAIM

The fact-checker noticed some misleading information in the broadcast and Facebook posts and proceeded to draw out several claims to fact-check.

Highlight of claims extracted from the broadcast include:

CLAIM 1: Joe Biden was 77 years old when he was elected as US President

CLAIM 2: Nancy Pelosi is 90 years and Speaker of US House of Reps

CLAIM 3: Joe Biden was Senator for 37 years before contesting as Obama’s Vice President

CLAIM 4: Singapore current leader was elected at the age of 90 years

CLAIM 5: Queen Elizabeth is more than 90 years is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of Britain

CLAIM 6: Vladimir Putin has been President of Russia for 26 years

CLAIM 7: President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is in his late 70s.

CLAIM 8: Angela Merkel is over 80 years old and has ruled Germany for 16 years

CLAIM 9: Narendra Modi is 90 years and the longest serving Prime Minister of India

POTENTIAL IMPACT OF THE CLAIM

A search of keywords contained in the broadcast on Facebook showed that it has been posted on the platform: by seventy-five individual users; on five Facebook groups and pages and; with over 850 shares, as at the time of filing this report.

These Facebook groups and pages has about 450,000 members and the social media platform has 27.46 million users in Nigeria in 2020, according to Statista.  Potentially, the information shared has reached one in 61 active user on the platform, or more.

Also, the broadcast message sharing same claim on WhatsApp groups shows that it has been ‘forwarded many times.’ Hence, fact-checking these claims is important to set the record straight or verify the information contained in the broadcast.

This claim was posted and shared as a justification for why gerontocracy rule is not a bad thing in Africa’s political circle, since it is practiced in developed countries across the world. The social impact of this claim is that it gives African politicians the needed ammunition to push a narrative that justifies recycling of old rulers that promote bad governance, violate human rights and lack transparency or accountability.

VERIFICATION OF THE CLAIMS

CLAIM 1

Joe Biden was 77-year-old when he was elected as US President

VERIFICATION

Joseph Robinette Biden was elected President of the United States in the early November 2020, at the time, he was 77 years old. He celebrated his 78th birthday on November 20, 2020, few weeks after he was elected.

However, BBC reported on December 14 that Biden had been confirmed President of the United States via Electoral College.

VERDICT

It is TRUE that Joe Biden was 77 years old when he was elected as US President.

CLAIM 2

Nancy Pelosi is 90 years and Speaker of US House of Reps

VERIFICATION

Nancy Patricia Pelosi was born on March 26th 1940, making her 80 years of age.

Pelosi is the 52nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, beginning her tenure in January 2019. She has served as a U.S. representative from California since 1987.

VERDICT

The claim that Pelosi is 90 years is FALSE, however she is the current Speaker of the US House of Rep.

CLAIM 3

Joe Biden was Senator for 37 years before contesting as Obama’s Vice President

VERIFICATION

Biden was elected as a US Senator from Delaware at the age of 29, he assumed office in January 3, 1973.

The senator was announced as Obama’s running mate in August 2008. On November 4, 2008, Obama and Biden were elected as the 44th POTUS and 47th VPOTUS, respectively.

He cast his last senate vote on January 15, 2009 before he vacated his seat. Biden was sworn in as VPOTUS on January 20, 2009.

VERDICT

The claim that Joe Biden was Senator for 37 years before contesting as Obama’s Vice President is FALSE. He was on the 35th year when he was nominated as Obama’s Vice President and left the Senate as a floor member after serving for 36 years and 12 days as a Senator.

CLAIM 4

Singapore current leader was elected at the age of 90 years

VERIFICATION

According to Wikipedia, Halimah binti Yacob is the incumbent President of Singapore. She was elected in an uncontested election in the 2017 Singapore presidential election, at the time Yacob was elected, she was 63 years old.

Also, the current Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong. He assumed office in August 2004, at the age of 52. Loong is 68 years old at the moment.

VERDICT

The claim that the Singapore current leader was elected at the age of 90 years is FALSE. The President and Prime Ministers are in their late 60s.

CLAIM 5

Queen Elizabeth is more than 90 years is the Head of State and Commander in Chief of Britain

VERIFICATION

Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms was born in April 21, 1926. She is 94 years old, at the moment. Wikipedia

VERDICT

The claim that Queen Elizabeth is more than 90 year is TRUE.

CLAIM 6

Vladimir Putin has been President of Russia for 26 years

VERIFICATION

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the current President of Russia assumed office in May 2012 for a six-year term. He was re-elected in the 2018 election for another six year period, to end in 2024.

Putin had already served as Russia’s President between December 1999 to May 2008. He assumed office as the Prime Minister of Russia in 2008 till he left in 2012.

VERDICT

The claim that Putin has been President of Russia for 26 years is MISLEADING. Putin’s combined tenure as President is 20 years and will end in 2024.

CLAIM 7

President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is in his late 70s

VERIFICATION

Benjamin Netanyahu, born in October 21, 1949 is the Prime Minister of Israel. Currently, he is 71 years old and has served as Prime Minister since 2009 and previously from 1996 to 1999.

Netanyahu is the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history and heads the Likud party.

VERDICT

The claim that President Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is in his late 70s is MISLEADING, he is in his early 70s.

CLAIM 8

Angela Merkel is over 80 years old and has ruled Germany for 16 years

VERIFICATION

Angela Dorothea Merkel was born in July 17, 1954. She assumed office as the Chancellor of Germany in November 2005.

VERDICT 

The claim that Merkel is over 80 years old is FALSE, she is 66 years old. Also, the claim that she has ruled Germany for 16 years is MISLEADING, she has only served for 15 years.

CLAIM 9

Narendra Modi is 90 years and the longest serving Prime Minister of India

VERIFICATION

Narendra Damodardas Modi was born on September 17, 1950. He assumed office as the 14th Prime Minister of India in May 2014.

Modi is the first prime minister outside of the Indian National Congress to win two consecutive terms with a full majority. He became India’s longest serving non-Congress Prime Minister in August 2020.

VERDICT

The claim that Narendra Modi is 90 years is FALSE, he is 70 years old. Also, the claim that he is the longest serving Prime Minister of India is MISLEADING, as there are other politicians that have served longer terms than him but he made history as the longest serving non-Congress Prime Minister.

CONCLUSION

The claims made in the broadcast are MOSTLY FALSE and MISLEADING as the context which it appeared in is justifying having old leaders at the helm of affairs. However, while pushing this narrative, it failed to do due diligence of verifying bio data and history surrounding the cited leaders, their history and that of the country they represent.

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