Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has shared footage of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan playing basketball following rumors that the president is suffering from an illness.
In the footage, Erdoğan is seen with Altun, Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank, Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoğlu, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, and Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın among other politicians.
"It's important to exercise for health. I try to exercise three times a week," Erdoğan said on his Twitter account alongside the long version of the footage on Oct. 3.
Sağlık için spor yapmak çok çok önemli. Ben de haftada üç gün spor yapmaya gayret ediyorum. Harekette bereket vardır. 🏀 pic.twitter.com/7sDmQV7MSp— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) October 3, 2021
The video, which was overwhelmingly deemed a publicity stunt, was shared two days after Steven A. Cook and Eni Enrico Mattei penned an opinion piece in Foreign Policy, claiming that Erdoğan may be too ill to compete in the 2023 elections.
"In recent months, a series of videos have surfaced in which the Turkish leader has not looked well. Some of them are not as clear as others, but, taken together, they raise some obvious questions about Erdoğan’s health," they said in the piece.
"Of course, these rumors are most often repeated by people outside of Turkey or more than a few steps removed from the president’s inner circle, so the allegations of Erdoğan’s coming demise might just be idle chatter," they noted.
The basketball video is the second such publicity stunt in recent weeks. On Sept. 26, Erdoğan shared his granddaughter's cat in an apparent bid to win the hearts of animal lovers.
Sevgili torunum Aybike’nin kedisi Pıt Pıt Şeker... Güncel gelişmelere pek meraklı 😺 pic.twitter.com/HcZyjmCQ7S— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) September 26, 2021
However, social media users were quick to remind Erdoğan that Turkey falls dramatically short of protecting animals and that he himself described chicken as "white meat" when commenting on the animals that died during wildfires in August.