British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris for their projected 2020 election victory on Saturday. But what would have been a perfunctory message became thornier after Twitter users revealed that it appeared to originally be addressed to President Donald Trump.
“Congratulations to Joe Biden on his election as President of the United States and to Kamala Harris on her historic achievement,” Johnson’s text graphic message reads. “The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security.”
But far-right political blog Guido Fawkes reported that a different message was buried beneath Johnson’s post. The words “Trump on his” are faintly visible above “Biden,” and lower in the message, the phrases “second term” and “on the future of this” can be seen. These faint phrases have a smaller text size than the primary Biden message, suggesting that somebody on Johnson’s staff originally drafted a longer message in anticipation of a Trump victory.
The Guido Fawkes article boosts the contrast on Johnson’s message to make the underlying Trump phrases more noticeable, but they are still visible to the naked eye on Johnson’s original post. Twitter user @AlexWattsEsq corroborated these findings and asked, “Under what circumstances would you think publishing a congratulations to the new president with the ghost of a congratulations to his rival haunting to be even remotely acceptable practice?”
A spokesperson for the British government told Guido Fawkes, “As you’d expect, two statements were prepared in advance for the outcome of this closely contested election. A technical error meant that parts of the alternative message were embedded in the background of the graphic.”
The statement refutes @AlexWattsEsq’s borderline conspiracy theory that Johnson’s gaffe was “deliberate malignity from a government that had bet everything on red,” but it doesn’t necessarily excuse the British government’s ineptitude.
As Twitter user @tomyoung79 put it: “This is the sort of thing that proves (if proof were needed) how no government is remotely competent enough to achieve any of the things those theories ascribe to them.”