Fact Check: Images Do NOT Show Trump Hugging Fauci -- They Are NOT Authentic

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Images Do NOT Show Trump Hugging Fauci -- They Are NOT Authentic AI Images

Does a video containing still images of then-President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci capture them embracing each other? No, that's not true: Those pictures are computer-generated.

The claim originated from a tweet (archived here) on June 5, 2023. It said:

Donald Trump became a household name by FIRING countless people *on television*
But when it came to Fauci...

The entry contained a 44-second video that appeared to portray both men.

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

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 2.10.11 PM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 18:10:11 2023 UTC)

"De Santis War Room," which posted the video, is an account started in August 2022 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' political operative Christina Pushaw. It opened with the old shots from "The Apprentice" featuring then-businessman Donald Trump saying his catchphrase "You're fired!" Then, the clip transitioned to footage from Trump's presidency and, finally, showed a composite image of six pictures of him and then-White House medical advisor Fauci.

Three pictures from the gallery, however, contained multiple inconsistencies, which strongly pointed to the AI-generated nature of the "photos" in question.

Fauci's height

Fauci is much shorter than Trump. The difference was more stark when they stood next to each other, as captured in a 2020 Reuters photo that also appeared in the bottom left corner of the composite image on social media. The hugging pictures, nevertheless, portray the men as being of nearly the same height, which contradicts known facts.

Trump's hair

Another thing that draws attention is the unusually blurry appearance of Trump's hair, lacking texture as if it were poplar fluff or cotton candy:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 3.57.57 PM.png

(Sources: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:37:03 2023 UTC; Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:37:18 2023; Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:37:32 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

This is a sharp contrast to an official portrait of Trump showing his hair with texture consistent with human hair:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 3.43.53 PM.png

(Source: Library of Congress screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:32:49 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

Hand issues

A closer look at the images allows us to spot unnaturally portrayed hands. For example, one of the hugging pictures shows Trump's right and left hands fused together:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 4.00.43 PM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 20:00:43 2023 UTC)

Another image presents a view of a strangely shaped Trump thumb and index finger:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 2.57.11 PM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 18:57:11 2023 UTC)

Random inscription

Inconsistencies could be spotted in the background, too. A dark blue rectangular sign in the top left image appears to be similar to the sign in the White House briefing room:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 3.10.25 PM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:10:25 2023 UTC)

But the real sign in the White House briefing room has a much lighter blue color and is oval. The only four words written on it are "THE WHITE HOUSE" and "WASHINGTON." None contain the same combination of letters -- HAP -- as in the image in question. See the real sign below in a screenshot from a recent briefing broadcast by C-SPAN.

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 3.13.13 PM.png

(Source: C-SPAN screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 19:13:13 2023 UTC)

Additionally, Hive Moderation, a tool designed to detect AI-generated content, showed that the three images are extremely likely to have been AI-generated:

Screen Shot 2023-06-13 at 3.03.19 PM.png

(Source: Hive Moderation screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 18:53:47 2023 UTC; Hive Moderation screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 18:59:30 2023 UTC; Hive Moderation screenshot taken on Tue Jun 13 18:59:55 2023 UTC)

Ironically, in October 2020, Trump's campaign aired an ad that created the impression that Fauci supported him, but Fauci's words were taken out of context and Fauci denied the alleged endorsement, ABC News reported (at the 2:22 mark of the video).

The video released by DeSantis' campaign in 2023 is one of the first examples of AI-generated images entering election campaigns in the United States without a proper disclaimer, even though the use of AI is not entirely new.

In April 2023, the Republican National Committee used artificial intelligence to visualize what the world would look like, from their perspective, if Joe Biden gets re-elected for a second term, but the clip disclosed that the images were not authentic.

Trump's campaign also used AI in the spring of 2023 -- to mock DeSantis, at the time just entering the race, by using a machine-generated voice of him and others.

In 2023, the Democratic Party started utilizing artificial intelligence, too, but predominantly for campaign messaging (for example, to create more personalized emails.)

Other Lead Stories fact checks about deepfakes can be found here.

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  Uliana Malashenko

Uliana Malashenko is a New York-based freelance writer and fact checker.

Read more about or contact Uliana Malashenko

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