Fake News: Video Shows NO Mystery Man "In Muslim Garb" On Notre Dame Tower During Fire

Hoax Alert

  • by: Maarten Schenk

Was some kind of "mystery man", possibly wearing "muslim garb" seen in a brief video clip of one of the towers of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris during the April 15, 2019 fire, supposedly after all the workers left? No, that's not true: clearer footage shows the man is just a fireman.

The video clip started circulating on social media during the fire on April 15, 2019 and it looks like it was filmed by someone pointing a cellphone at a television screen and zooming in:

An example of the video can be seen in this tweet published on April 16, 2019 (archived here) which read:

"@realDonaldTrump ????BREAKING: No workers present at the time that the Notre Dame Cathedral fire started......So who is this guy dressed in Muslim garb?? #The200 https://t.co/cHYlJCcsQr"

Screenshot of https://twitter.com/therealcornett/status/1117966167040249856

French fact checkers looked into the issue:

Notre-Dame : qui est cette personne en gilet jaune sur une tour qui affole les réseaux sociaux étrangers ?

Question posĂ©e par Thomas Benoit le 16/04/2019 Bonjour, "Des personnes commencent Ă  partager cette vidĂ©o d'une tĂ©lĂ© espagnole montrant une personne Ă©voluer sur une tour de Notre-Dame, suggĂ©rant qu'elle pourrait ĂȘtre de confession musulmane d'aprĂšs les vĂȘtements", Ă©crivez-vous dans votre question en nous renvoyant vers une publication Facebook peu relayĂ©e, qui demande en anglais : "Pas de travailleurs sur le site.

They found the same video in this tweet with over 200K views at the time (over 600K now):

From looking at partial captions on the screen they were able to determine it was footage being broadcasted live by Spanish network RTVE.ES. The same live stream was also carried by CNBC and at 42:05 you can clearly see the man in question walk by:

Because this is a direct video feed and not a cellphone video of a television screen the colors and details are much clearer. The man is wearing a yellow high visibility vest and a shiny helmet, not a "muslim garb". At the start of the video the fire is already quite big and at the moment the man walks by one can also see jets of water being sprayed against the side of the tower by the fire brigade.

This would seem to indicate the fire brigade was on the scene already at the time the footage was shot. At the 30:30 mark in the video several other firemen can be seen standing in the same place:

And at the 42:50 mark, barely 45 seconds after the "mystery man" walked by, more firemen can be seen coming out of the door he went into, seemingly inspecting or pulling a firehose or a cable:

So yeah, it was just a fireman.


  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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