Trump Mistakenly Said 'Obama' When He Meant 'Biden' During Richmond Speech?

"Putin, you know, has so little respect for Obama that he's starting to throw around the nuclear word," Trump said during the March 2, 2024, speech.

Published March 4, 2024

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Virginia. Sixteen states, including Virginia, will vote during Super Tuesday on March 5. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images

On March 2, 2024, X user Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) – a researcher and senior digital editor for the progressive network Meidas Touch – posted on X a video taken from a campaign speech delivered on the same day by former U.S. President Donald Trump in Richmond, Virginia. According to the post, the clip showed a "confused" Trump saying former U.S. President Barack Obama's name when he was referring to President Joe Biden.

In the brief video, Trump mentioned Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying, "Get that war settled. It's a bad war. And Putin, you know, has so little respect for Obama that he's starting to throw around the nuclear word. You heard that? Nuclear. He's starting to talk nuclear weapons today." Similar clips were later virally shared by other users.

Biden, Trump and Mental Acuity

The mental acuity of both Biden and Trump has become a much-discussed topic ahead of the 2024 election due to their ages — Biden is 81, Trump is 77. For example, on March 4, The Associated Press reported that a poll had found "a significant share of U.S. adults doubt the mental capabilities" of both men, with Biden earning a slightly larger share of concerned voters. The survey was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Trump Claims Mentions of Obama Are Sarcasm

Regarding the clip from Trump's speech, there's a bit of context to be covered here, mainly the transcribed remarks that appear below. Also, Trump has mentioned Obama's name – mistakenly or not – when speaking about Biden before, as ABC News and USA Today have reported. Further, in November 2023, Trump posted on his Truth Social platform that he does this name swap "sarcastically" and on purpose.

To be clear, assessing whether a person – any person – truly meant to say something as a joke or to be sarcastic is not something that can necessarily be done by examining data. Partisan personalities can debate how supposedly "obvious" it is that a statement was uttered as a joke, but often the truth of the matter is only known for sure by the person who said it.

Context from Trump's Richmond Speech

Snopes found a video of Trump's full speech in Richmond that was posted on the Newsmax YouTube channel. Trump's relevant remarks have been transcribed below, all in chronological order.

At the 20:53 mark in the video, more than 36 minutes before Trump made the viral remark about Putin and Obama, he talked to the crowd about how he supposedly says Obama's name to represent Biden. He also said that, personally, he does not believe in the baseless conspiracy theory that Obama is secretly calling the shots in the Oval Office — an opinion that clashes with his own claim that he was purposely saying Obama's name "sarcastically" when he meant to say Biden's. Still, Trump said that he knows that some people might believe the conspiracy theory anyway:

Biden and his accomplices. I mean, that's what it is. It's really more of the accomplices. I mean, the guy can't put two sentences together. He can't find the stairs to a platform.

(Trump gestures, pretending to be Biden looking for stairs)

I have to be careful. You know, every time I do that, my wife called. I said, "How good was that speech tonight? I had 29,000 people. How good was that?" She said, "It was good, darling. But they said you had a terrible time finding your way off the platform."

So every time I do that, or I'll say, "Our president, Barack Hussein Obama." Now, I do that because, you know, that makes a point. We understand that, right? Because a lot of people say he's running the country. I don't personally think so. But it is being run by a group of radical left thugs that circle the beautiful desk. The Resolute Desk. One of the most beautiful desks in the world has been badly stained by the occupant right now. But, you know. But when I say, "Barack Hussein Obama, the president of our country," on the news that night they go, "Donald Trump didn't know the name of our president. He said it was President Obama. It's President Biden." So I have to be very, very careful. It's – I have to be very, very careful. We have many of them.

I purposely mix up like a name like "Bird Brain." You know who "Bird Brain" is, right? Nikki [Haley] ... with Nancy Pelosi. I put them in because they're interchangeable in my mind. And, except, I have to say... I have to say, I shouldn't say this about a semi-Republican but I think Pelosi's probably a little bit smarter, actually. It's too bad to say. But you know what? So you interchange them. And then they (inaudible). I cannot be sarcastic so I try not to be. I just did that thing for the first time in like two weeks because it's a disaster. Guaranteed, the fake news, the enemy of the people, will say, "He could not find his way off the stage." So, we have to be very careful. Between that and AI, we have a lot of problems coming.

Minutes later, at the 35:45 mark in the video, Trump mentioned Obama and Biden again, correctly referencing their time when Obama was president and Biden was vice president.

Then, at the 56:20 mark, Trump uttered the remark that went viral on X. While referencing the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul in Afghanistan in 2021 with the words "that horrible airlift" and promoting the false conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was "rigged," he said the following (bolded words signify the portion of the speech that appeared in some posts on X):

And then we had a rigged election, and this fool, this fool, this stupid fool took over, and we had that horrible airlift. He said, "We'll never have anything like Vietnam." This thing blew Vietnam away with the people on the airplane from 3,000 feet up. They start falling off the plane. Before I even arrive at the Oval Office, shortly after we win the presidency I will have the horrible war between Russia and Ukraine settled. I know them both very well. And we will restore peace through strength. Get that war settled. It's a bad war. And Putin, you know, has so little respect for Obama that he's starting to throw around the nuclear word. You heard that? Nuclear. He's starting to talk nuclear weapons today. I was waiting for that to happen but we have a fool, a fool as a president. He said, "We will never leave until there is complete and total victory." And we might be there for a long time. Nah, we have a fool. I'll get that thing settled. I know both men very well.

For further reading, Snopes previously reported about the moment when Biden mistakenly called Trump the "sitting president" during a speech he gave in January 2024.


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Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.