Fact Check: USA Today Did NOT Post Video Of Zelenskyy's Bodyguard 'Starting A Fight In A Bar' -- And There's NO Record Of Such A Brawl

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: USA Today Did NOT Post Video Of Zelenskyy's Bodyguard 'Starting A Fight In A Bar' -- And There's NO Record Of Such A Brawl Counterfeit

Did USA Today produce and publish a clip capturing Volodymyr Zelenskyy's bodyguard starting a "drunken brawl" in New York City, and did that incident take place during the Ukrainian president's visit to the United States in September 2023? No, none of that is true: A bar's representative, the NYPD and USA Today refuted the claim. The video doesn't even show the correct location of the purported incident.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) published on X, formerly known as Twitter, on September 26, 2023. It opened:

Media: One of #Zelensky's bodyguards brought his chief's visit to the #US to a vibrant conclusion starting a fight in a bar not far from the UN office because the visitors didn't want to shout out after him 'Glory to Ukraine'
'It's the retinue plays the king.'

A video attached to the post displayed the logo of USA Today. The add-on text in the clip continued:

A member of the Ukrainian

delegation has staged

a drunken brawl in New York City.

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

Screen Shot 2023-10-02 at 10.19.40 AM.png

Twitter screenshot(Source: X screenshot taken on Mon Oct 2 14:19:40 2023 UTC)

The one-minute low-quality video included footage showing Zelenskyy's public appearances and a street fight apparently occurring at a different location, with some generic shots of a bar in between. It stated that the incident took place on September 21, 2023, at "The Campbell Bar." The spot is located in the same building as Grand Central Terminal, which is about a 15-minute walk from the United Nations headquarters.

However, Olivia Meyers, a digital marketing manager at Gerber Group which owns The Campbell Bar, told Lead Stories via email on October 2, 2023:

The video was fake and no incident took place in or around The Campbell.

The clip stated that "the police detained all of the participants in the bar fight."

But the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI), which replies to media inquiries to the NYPD, told Lead Stories via email on October 2, 2023, that there was no confirmation the incident took place at the said bar in September 2023:

There are no complaints reports on file with the information provided.

The scene of the street fight as captured in the video in question does not match the appearance of the actual entrance to the venue:

Screen Shot 2023-10-02 at 11.43.52 AM.png

(Source: Google screenshot taken on Mon Oct 2 15:43:52 2023 UTC)

Being a major transportation hub, Grand Central Terminal is well-lit at any time of the day.

Contrary to what the video shows, it is surrounded by skyscrapers, not low-rise residential buildings:

Screen Shot 2023-10-02 at 12.03.02 PM.png

(Sources: Google screenshot taken on Mon Oct 2 15:36:58 2023 UTC; Google screenshot taken on Mon Oct 2 Screen 15:38:35 2023 UTC; composite image by Lead Stories)

A USA Today spokesperson previously refuted the claim, denying that the media company ever published the clip:

The video circulating on X (formerly Twitter) using the USA TODAY logo and branding is fake. (...) We have filed a claim on false information with the platform to halt the immediate spread of misinformation.

Ukraine's president Volodymir Zelenskyy visited New York City on September 19, 2023. On that day, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

The claim about a purported "drunken brawl" initially started to circulate on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels in Russian (for example, here.)

Other Lead Stories fact checks mentioning Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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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