Biden debate gaffe sends viewers in digital circles

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Minutes after Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden bungled his closing statement in Wednesday’s debate by telling voters to go to a campaign website that did not exist, a college student was using the URL for a spoof election bid.

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks on the second night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Biden misspoke by directing viewers to “go to Joe30330” rather than “text JOE to 30330,” setting off a flurry of jokes on Twitter about the 76-year-old’s ineptitude with technology and a digital race to buy similar domain names.

Josh Fayer, a 21-year-old public relations student at Syracuse University in New York, said he had just stopped watching the debate when a friend texted to say he had bought the domain name the former vice president cited.

They decided to redirect it to Fayer’s parody presidential campaign site: “Josh for America,” which Fayer said he launched as an April Fool’s joke this year.

Fayer’s site introduces him as “the first Gen Z’er to declare candidacy for this office” and includes a video that stated his platform of “no homework in college.”

“I don’t have any broader ambitions for a fake exploratory committee,” he joked to Reuters in a phone interview. “I didn’t file any of the paperwork.”

Fayer said his parody election bid originally garnered only a few retweets but that his site had more than 53,000 views just minutes after the debate in Detroit finished.

He said he did not want to endorse any presidential candidate. But late on Wednesday, his site’s donate button sent visitors to a page inviting them to “donate to our good friend Pete Buttigieg’s campaign.”

The campaign for Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is one of Biden’s rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A similar domain,, also was directing people to Buttigieg’s campaign site.

It appears that Biden meant to direct voters to his campaign’s texting platform, a popular digital fundraising strategy. Without mentioning the gaffe, the @JoeBiden Twitter handle sent out the correct call to action in a tweet immediately following the debate.

Yet another similar URL,, directed people on Wednesday to Biden’s official campaign website.

A spokesman for the Biden campaign declined to comment.

Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney