In early September 2022, images from a speech given by United States President Joe Biden quickly nicknamed the “red speech” — so called because it appeared to be against the backdrop of menacing red lights — began circulating on news sites and social media:
Shortly after the September 1 2022 address to the nation, “Biden red speech” became a popular search term on Twitter. Some described the imagery as “demonic,” while others edited in footage to include Nazi symbols:
NBC News reported:
President Joe Biden accused former President Donald Trump and his supporters of promoting an extreme ideology that threatens democracy in rare prime-time remarks Thursday [September 1 2022] as he stepped up attacks on conservatives ahead of the midterm elections.
“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Biden said in the speech from the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.
He accused so-called “MAGA Republicans,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, of refusing to recognize free and fair elections, increasingly talking about violence in response to actions they don’t like, and of being determined to thwart “the will of the people.”
A complete transcript of Biden’s speech on September 1 2022 was published to the White House website. In a portion of those remarks, President Biden said:
Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
Now, I want to be very clear — (applause) — very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.
I know because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.
These are hard things.
But I’m an American President — not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America.
A September 1 2022 CNN article featured a closely cropped photograph of Biden and the red lights. On September 2 2022, the right-wing National Review published “Blood-Red Dark Biden,” describing the purported optics of the speech:
Redecorating Independence Hall as a Villain’s Lair
The glaring contradiction was clear in the visuals of this speech, taking arguably the single-most important location in the Founding of the United States, Independence Hall, and then lighting it blood red, with two silhouetted silent soldiers flanking the president. Take your pick, Snoke’s throne room from Star Wars, the Red Hall at Seattle’s Central Library — the lighting screamed “red alert from the red states.” Perhaps we should see it as a red flag, or a red herring.
A September 2 2022 Fox News piece was titled “Biden shocks viewers with ‘hellish red background’ for polarizing speech,” “Biden sent critics rushing to Twitter with thoughts on the ominous red lighting.” The outlet shared at least two items focusing on the red lights.
On September 5 2022, an Imgur account shared a different lighting-related post. It did not focus on the intensity of the red lighting, so much as the presence of additional white and blue lighting during the nighttime speech, presenting a rather different mood in all:
A “blink and you’ll miss it” wide view of the speech including the white and blue lights was included in a video thumbnail from the New York Times on September 1 2022. A handful of tweets contested the “menacing red lights” narrative, but most had very little engagement:
Images of a September 1 2022 speech by U.S. President Joe Biden (the “red speech”) spread virally on Twitter, leading to breathless coverage of “demonic” lighting. Those images were deceptively cropped to hide the red, white, and blue color scheme, and the red lights were bookended by blue lights and a white dome. Images of the speech from other angles circulated, but not nearly as much as the “Dark Brandon” cropped photographs.