It's true that Biden spoke these words. In the two preceding sentences, he had said: "Eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. They’re the only outfit in the country that is immune." Given the context, it's possible that he then intended to say, "Imagine had the tobacco industry been immune to prosecution."
On April 11, 2022, videos began to circulate in which U.S. President Joe Biden appeared to utter the nonsensical words, "Imagine had the tobacco industry been immune to prostitute being sued." We also received inquiries from readers about the legitimacy of the quote. The official White House video showed that Biden did indeed speak these words.
One of the viral videos came from Sky News Australia. It was on track to being viewed more than 1 million times in less than 24 hours:
The moment came during what the official White House transcript called, "Remarks by President Biden Announcing Actions to Fight Gun Crime and His Nominee for ATF Director, Steve Dettelbach." The event was held in the Rose Garden on April 11, 2022.
In the official transcript of Biden's remarks, the word "prostitute" is not spelled out. Rather, it is rendered as "prost-," with a dash.
Based on the official transcript, the sentences that came both before and after the statement in question suggest that Biden may have meant to use the word "prosecution," not "prostitute." We reached out to the White House for further clarification.
The official transcript from the White House reads as follows:
No, I’m serious. Think about it. Think about the mass shootings. As many as a hundred rounds. It’s a weapon of war. It has nothing to do with recreation.
Outright banning the sale and possession of un-serialized guns.
Eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. They’re the only outfit — (applause) — they’re the only outfit in the country that is immune.
Imagine had the tobacco industry been immune to prost- — to being sued. Come on.
In February, the families of nine of the Sandy Hook shooting victims achieved a settlement against the maker of guns that was used to kill their children.
The Sandy — Sandy Hook folks are here. Do you — will you be embarrassed if I ask you to stand up? (Applause.) These folks right here did more to keep all of this going than anybody. We owe you, man. We owe you. (Applause.) It never goes away, does it? God love you.
Look, this is incredibly rare because gun manufacturers have more immunity from liability than any other American industry, so they have never had to take responsibility for the death and destruction their products cause. But as part of this settlement, Remington agreed to release thousands of pages of internal documents.
This story will be updated if we receive a response from the White House.