In early 2021, readers asked Snopes to look into social media posts claiming U.S. President Joe Biden had lowered the age of sexual consent to 8 years old.
The false and completely fabricated claim came in two principle forms. One was a screenshot of a fake NBC headline, which contained a photograph of Biden and the text “BREAKING — President Biden has officially lowered the age of consent to 8”:
It’s not clear where the meme originated, but Facebook users began to share it widely in late January 2021, after Biden’s inauguration.
The second meme was a screenshot of a fake CNN article which included the headline “Biden Administration Lowers Age of Consent to 8” and the following text:
President Joe Biden’s administration confirmed that the legal age of consent will be lowered to 8 starting February 16th. During a speech Tuesday afternoon, Biden stated “We have to do it… The age, the kids, they should be about this old.” Biden then held up a gesture suggesting the historic decrease. This change is a huge win for progressives everywhere seeking to increase freedom for children. The incoming Defense Secretary detailed their plan to export this progress worldwide, freeing savage countries who let children become weary with old age before breeding is allowed.
Those reports were, of course, egregious and distasteful nonsense. Biden never made the remarks attributed to him in the fake CNN article, and the screenshot copied and pasted the byline (including the rather specific “Updated” time and date) from a real CNN story published on Jan. 27, and shown below:
Neither Biden nor his administration, nor the Justice Department, nor any official in the Biden administration, announced an intention to change the age of sexual consent. Such reports made little sense anyway, since the age of consent is governed by criminal statutes on a state-by-state basis, rather than a federal level. (Federal law does prohibit interstate travel for the purpose of engaging in a sexual encounter with a person aged under 18, but that’s not quite the same thing.)
The memes appeared to form part of a broader set of conspiracy theories, aligned with QAnon and Pizzagate, which falsely claim a global liberal elite, including figures such as Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and others, are engaged in child sexual abuse, ritual sacrifice, and Satan-worshipping on a massive scale. During the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump amplified such baseless conspiracy theories by promoting tweets that described Biden as a pedophile.