Fact Check: Hillary Clinton Did NOT Endorse Ron DeSantis -- It's A Deepfake Video

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Hillary Clinton Did NOT Endorse Ron DeSantis -- It's A Deepfake Video Deepfake

Did former first lady, Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton go on MSNBC to express her support for Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis? No, that's not true: The video uses a combination of authentic footage and a deepfake audio track. As of July 7, 2023, no evidence shows that Clinton endorsed DeSantis elsewhere.

The claim appeared in a tweet (archived here) on April 11, 2023. The posted video's caption, incorrectly referring to Governor DeSantis as "Rob DeSantis," said:

Hillary Clinton endorses Rob DeSantis. That's the "kiss of death" for the meatball campaign.

Here is what the claim looked like at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Screen Shot 2023-07-07 at 11.41.09 AM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Fri Jul 7 15:41:09 2023 UTC)

The tweeted video contained realistic-looking footage portraying Clinton allegedly saying:

You know, people might be surprised to hear me say this. But I actually like Ron DeSantis. A lot. Yeah, I know. I'd say he's just the kind of guy this country needs. And I really mean that. If Ron DeSantis got installed as President, I'd be fine with that. I mean, the one thing I know about Ron is that when push comes to shove, Ron does what he's told and I can't think of anything more important than that. Hail Hydra.

Unlike the tweet, the audio used the correct name of Florida's Republican governor, Ron -- not "Rob" -- DeSantis.

Initially posted on social media nearly a month and a half before DeSantis officially filed his bid for president on May 24, 2023, the video has continued to resurface.

The source of the claim was the Twitter account of @Ramble_rants whose name also appears in the tweet shown at the beginning of this fact check. It published the video on April 11, 2023. In comments on that date, the account holder admitted that the video was a "deep fake" -- a piece of content that uses artificial intelligence to imitate a real person. AI can generate both inauthentic visuals and deepfake audio. Such tools can learn a person's manner of speech from publicly available samples of their voice and then "read" text to imitate that specific person.

The exchange with @Ramble_rants that can be seen below did not clarify what category of AI-generated content the video belonged to:

Screen Shot 2023-07-07 at 12.56.02 PM.png

(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Fri Jul 7 16:56:02 2023 UTC)

Although the audio used resembles Clinton's voice, one thing that cast doubts on the authenticity of the clip are Clinton's lip movements, which were out of sync with the audio track. That rarely occurs on major TV networks, which employ professional editors and use equipment that records sound and video simultaneously. When out-of-sync sound does occur and cannot be corrected in a timely manner, such fragments are typically considered to be unfit for broadcast because of the industry's quality standards.

A reverse image search showed that the same footage was first posted on YouTube on December 12, 2021. It featured Clinton wearing the same clothing and being filmed in the same location:

Screen Shot 2023-07-07 at 12.26.50 PM.png

(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Fri Jul 7 16:26:50 2023 UTC)

The interview took place during a December 12, 2021, episode of Sunday TODAY, a show that airs on NBC.

In the TODAY interview, Clinton discussed her teaching and public speaking experiences, the 2016 campaign and Donald Trump but made no specific mention of DeSantis.

As of this writing, there is no evidence that she ever endorsed Florida's governor in his race for president.

In fact, Clinton's social media accounts show the opposite of what such support would look like. Less than a day before DeSantis announced his candidacy, Clinton tweeted:

Ron DeSantis's ultra-MAGA Florida isn't safe for people of color, LGBTQ+ people, or even multi-billion dollar corporations.

Fox News was among the outlets that published a report about her remarks.

Earlier in mid-April 2023, days after the video in question was uploaded to social media, Clinton also mocked DeSantis by tweeting an archival picture of her family with one of Disney's characters -- a reference to the legal conflict between Florida's governor and the entertainment company.

A search for the phrase "Clinton endorsed DeSantis" on Google News showed either irrelevant results or other fact checks debunking the claim that she had endorsed the Republican politician.

Furthermore, no evidence exists that Clinton ever used the clip's final phrase, "Hail Hydra." According to KnowYourMeme, the expression is a "catchphrase taken from the motto of the fictional terrorist organization Hydra (alternative spelling: HYDRA) in the Marvel Universe." It also bears a phonetic similarity to the Nazi salutation, meaning that any former U.S. federal official's use of such an expression would likely draw considerable public attention. However, a Google search revealed that no credible news articles confirm that Clinton said it.

Lead Stories contacted MSNBC, the Democratic National Committee and Clinton for additional comments about the tweeted video. If we hear back from these sources, we will update this fact check as appropriate.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about Hillary Clinton and Ron DeSantis can be found here and 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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