Fact Check: 'Pope Drip' Image Is NOT Real -- Photo of Pope Francis In White Puffer Coat Is An AI Creation

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: 'Pope Drip' Image Is NOT Real -- Photo of Pope Francis In White Puffer Coat Is An AI Creation AI Generated

Did Pope Francis appear walking on the street wearing a high-fashion white puffer coat? No, that's not true: This image is one of a series of four AI-generated images which were posted on the subreddit forum r/midjourney, "an official subreddit for Midjourney related content." Midjourney is an artificial intelligence program that creates images from natural language prompts.

The images were originally posted on the Reddit forum r/midjourney (archived here) on March 24, 2023, by the user trippy_art_special. The images were titled: "The Pope Drip." On March 25, 2023, one of the images was shared on Twitter (archived here). The tweet was captioned:

The boys in Brooklyn could only hope for this level of drip

This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:

Twitter screenshot(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Mon Mar 27 13:42:16 2023 UTC)

Midjourney AI opened beta testing to the public in July 2022. The program allows anyone to use a text-based prompt (examples here) to have the AI art generator render very specific images in different styles. The brief "About" description on the midjourney.com website reads:

Midjourney is an independent research lab exploring new mediums of thought and expanding the imaginative powers of the human species.
We are a small self-funded team focused on design, human infrastructure, and AI. We have 11 full-time staff and an incredible set of advisors.

The Lead Stories composite image below shows the series of four images that were posted by u/trippy_art_special on the r/midjourney forum.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image from Reddit screenshots taken on Mon Mar 27 14:46:49 2023 UTC)

The Lead Stories composite image (below) shows several similar images (examples here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) posted on r/midjourney by other users in the days after "The Pope Drip" was posted. According to the Urban Dictionary, "drip" is a term for a cool and stylish outfit. Another image titled "Biden keeping up with the latest fashion trends" shows a likeness of Joe Biden in a white puffer coat.


(Image source: Lead Stories composite image made with Reddit screenshots taken on Mon Mar 27 15:59:14 2023 UTC)

In the past Lead Stories has offered context for several series of AI-generated images which some people thought were photos depicting real events. These include images showing imagined arrests of Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, a fantasy high-altitude rainbow and an alien autopsy.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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