Conspiracy theorists were quite active during U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration, trading spurious claims that senior Secret Service agent David Cho was a “Chinese handler.”
Far-right Facebook and Twitter users became obsessed with the “China man” who “followed Biden all fucking day,” as Twitter user We the People put it.
“I just asked why has Creepy Joe got a Chinese handler,” user mynameismyown said in a tweet. “It's so blatant, their (sic) not even trying to hide it anymore.”
“How is Biden not a Flag of China puppet? All I’ve seen him do is shuffle from place to place—sometimes with his Chinese handler, sometimes with his wife handler—reading what’s handed to him & then signing what’s handed to him. He doesn’t even have a personality that I can see—only anger,” one user said in a tweet.
The baseless theories came in the wake of months of Trump administration’s attempts to portray Biden as weak on China while accusing his son Hunter of having sketchy business ties with Chinese companies. The same beliefs have also caught on among some pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong and pro-Trump critics of the Chinese government.
Cho, a Korean-American agent, was picked to lead Biden’s presidential security detail at Wednesday's ceremonies. He is also a decorated member of the agency that protects U.S. leaders and their families.
In 2019, Cho received the Department of Homeland Security’s exceptional service gold medal. The award was “for tireless and direct participation in high-level negotiations” during the second summit between former President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.
According to the Washington Post, the perfectionist supervisor was second-in-command of the Secret Service during Trump’s term in office.
Cho’s service as Biden’s lead detail was also celebrated by Asian-Americans who hailed the display of diversity on inauguration day, from officials to performers to Secret Service agents.
Some Korean Twitter users even pointed out an unintended pun: Cho is actually pronounced similar to “Joe” leading them to joke that there were two “Joes” on that historic day in Washington, D.C.
“The racist, conspiratorial garbage about Biden’s "Chinese Handler" (aka David Cho the head of his secret service detail) is another example of the perpetual othering of Asian Americans. He literally is willing to take a bullet for the president, instead he’s just a foreign plant,” wrote one user.
The Secret Service could not be reached for comment.