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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Factcheck: The fake love story of Nancy Pelosi and Hu Xijin

An alleged wedding photo of Nancy Pelosi and a Chinese journalist has gone viral online. Satire or seriously damaging?

Deutsche Welle Published 04.08.22, 09:55 AM

Deutsche Welle

An alleged wedding photo of Nancy Pelosi is currently circulating on the web. It is supposed to show the speaker of the US House of Representatives with Chinese journalist Hu Xijin. But the entire story is a fake.

The US House speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan is creating a stir both politically and diplomatically and has already led to harsh reactions from the Chinese government.

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The visit of the US delegation is also causing discussion on the web. In addition to arguments for and against the visit and US support for Taiwan, however, false claims and fake content are now also circulating. Among other things, there is this story, which is not to be taken entirely seriously.

Claim: "When they were young: Nancy Pelosi and Hu Xijin," wrote a Twitter user under a photo purporting to show Nancy Pelosi and the former editor-in-chief of China's Global Times newspaper.

DW Fact check: False

The photo was photoshopped. It consists of two older pictures put together: One shows the young Nancy Pelosi, in the original, however, not next to Xijin, but with her family. Seated is her father Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., also a US politician. Pelosi, third from left, posted the image on Flickr with the caption, "With family as a young girl." It also appeared on one of her campaign pages.

The other image shows young Hu Xijin. A reverse image search leads to a tweet by the journalist himself in which he writes about his time in the Chinese military ("unforgettable years") and contains the photo that now appears in the alleged wedding picture.

Pelosi much older than Xijin

Both parts of the alleged wedding image can therefore be traced back by means of archive research and reverse image search. We also did a forensic image analysis and discovered different color compositions, which indicate a different pixel composition and thus a manipulation. This exposes the image as a fake, which some users understood as satire, but others also thought was real.

The age difference between Pelosi and Xijin alone should have been the first clue: Pelosi is 82 years old, Hu Xijin is 20 years younger.

In this photo from 1960 with the later US President John F. Kennedy, Pelosi is similar in age to the alleged wedding picture. In 1960, Xijin had only just been born.

Fun fake with a serious background

So why was this fake picture made? Apparently, this was only meant as a joke by internet users. Hu Xijin is a sharp critic of Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan and on the Chinese social media platform Weibo he pleaded for "military countermeasures" should Pelosi visit Taiwan because this was "the only language that the US and Taiwan understand." On Twitter, he even wrote that the Chinese People's Liberation Army should "shoot down" Pelosi's plane on its way to Taiwan if it did not turn back. As a result, his Twitter account was temporarily blocked and Xijin deleted the tweet.

A wedding picture of Pelosi and Xijin seems so absurd against this backdrop that many users found it funny to see both of them in one picture, and as a couple at that.

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