Fact Check: Digitally Manipulated Video Of Ayatollah Khamenei Banner Does NOT Document Protests At Brooklyn Museum

Fact Check

  • by: Uliana Malashenko
Fact Check: Digitally Manipulated Video Of Ayatollah Khamenei Banner Does NOT Document Protests At Brooklyn Museum Altered

Did protesters hang a "giant banner" at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in June 2024 of Iran's leader "thanking" Americans for pro-Palestinian rallies, as footage on social media appears to show? No, that's not true: The banner appears to have been added through generative AI, as initial video recordings of a protest at the museum on May 31, 2024 -- predating the claim by three weeks -- showed no such banner. A museum spokesperson denied the claim, too.

The story appeared in a post (archived here) on X, formerly known as Twitter, where it was published on June 22, 2024. It opened:

🇮🇷/🇺🇸 NEW: In New York City at the Brooklyn Museum, a giant banner of Ayatollah Khamenei was unvealed by the students, with his message thanking the Americans for their pro-Palestine protests.

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

Screenshot 2024-06-24 at 10.47.20 AM.png

(Source: X screenshot taken on Mon Jun 24 14:47:20 2024 UTC)

Images and text in the X post implied a recent event.

A reverse image search, however, led to other videos predating the X post by weeks. Published between May 31 and June 1, 2024, they showed the same scene at the same location, but the purported Ayatollah Khamenei banner covering the facade of the Brooklyn Museum was nowhere to be seen.

Original footage (archived here) posted on Instagram on May 31, 2024, from the same angle showed only the top black-and-white banner that read "Free Palestine":

Screenshot 2024-06-24 at 5.17.25 PM.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Jun 24 21:17:25 2024 UTC)

That was consistent with other early videos posted on social media, for example, here (archived here) as well as with the videos broadcast by CBS (archived here) and Pix11 (archived here) and photographs published by local media outlets, for example, here (archived here).

On June 1, 2024, AP reported (archived here) that at least 34 protesters were detained in the protest that had taken place a day earlier, and the news service's coverage said nothing about the purported appearance of the banner with Ayatollah Khamenei on it, either.

On June 24, 2024, a Brooklyn Museum spokesperson confirmed to Lead Stories via email:

...no banners with Iran's leader were seen on the museum's facade during the May 31 protest.
According to True Media, which is a tool built by a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, the visuals from the post on X which are the focus of this fact check, showed signs of digital manipulation, indicating that the banner was added by digital means:
Screenshot 2024-06-24 at 12.14.15 PM.png
(Source: True Media screenshot taken on Mon Jun 24 16:14:15 2024 UTC)
Screenshot 2024-06-24 at 12.14.32 PM.png
(Source: True Media screenshot taken on Mon Jun 24 16:14:32 2024 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks on claims related to the Hamas-Israel war can be found here.

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