Twitter has failed to take action as several verified accounts on Wednesday posted a photo falsely linking a Minneapolis police officer — infamous after he was caught on video kneeling on a now-deceased black man’s neck — with a man wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” baseball hat.
The video, which has sparked national outrage, shows police detaining 46-year-old George Floyd in south Minneapolis on Monday evening.
The clip shows an officer, believed to be Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over seven minutes as he uttered, “I can’t breathe. Please, the knee on my neck.”
Floyd later died at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Hours after the video went viral, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the firings of four Minneapolis Police Department officers.
“This is the right call,” Frey wrote on Twitter.
“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” he said. “For 5 minutes we watched as a white officer pressed his knee to the neck of a black man, for 5 minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help, this officer failed in the most basic human sense.”
On Twitter, users upset with Officer Chauvin began sharing a photo collage which falsely suggests is wearing a red baseball hat that reads “Make Whites Great Again,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 election slogan “Make America Great Again.”
However, the man on the right is not Chauvin but appears to resemble former federal prisoner Jonathan Lee Riches, who has reportedly claimed to have filed over 4,000 lawsuits.
One of the first verified accounts to share the photo, around midnight eastern time, was far-left activist and radio host Talbert Swan. He wrote: “Here is Derek Chauvin, the racist cop who kept his knee on
#GeorgeFloyd’s neck, cut off his air passage and murdered him, wearing a ‘Make Whites Great Again’ hat, a clear sign that this piece of excrement should’ve been taken off the streets a long time ago.”
After being called out for sharing fake news, Swan has refused to delete the misleading post and told the people asking for a correction to “go to Hades.”
Actor Cary Elwes shared a screenshot of Swan’s outburst before quickly deleting and re-sending his message with a link to a news story instead.
Rapper and actor Ice Cube tweeted the image early Wednesday morning. “A wolf in wolves clothing. The demons are among us,” Cube, whose real name is O’Shea Jackson, wrote as a caption.
Actress Rosanna Arquette retweeted the post to her 100,000+ followers.
Mike Sington, a former executive at NBCUniversal who brands himself “the ultimate Hollywood insider,” shared the misleading photo and wrote: “Here’s the cop Derek Chauvin in the process of murdering George Floyd. Look at that, the scumbag was photographed wearing a ‘Make Whites Great Again’ hat. 100% guarantee he also owns a MAGA hat.”
Comedian Mario Cantone tweeted of the photo: “Derek Chauvin. Lynching Murdering Evil Monster in his ‘work’ gear and ‘Fun’ gear. Sick soulless empty dead eyed fuck.”
When alerted that Chauvin was in fact not pictured on the right, Cantone replied: “It doesn’t matter. All you neeed is the first picture. If that so ..Then the second picture becomes a metaphor.”
David Atkins, a contributor to Monthly, tweeted about the photo, writing: “Wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” hat should be an immediately fireable offense for any public servant anywhere. Multiply that 100-fold for a law enforcement officer. We need total reform of police departments nationwide.” Atkins has deleted his message at the time of this writing.
“His name is Derek Chauvin, and Of Course, he has a ‘Make Whites Great Again’ Hat,” tweeted DubaiNameShame, a man who reportedly had his website shut down for naming and shaming bad drivers in Dubai. “Getting fired is NOT enough! He needs to be charged and convicted of MURDER then allowed to face prison justice for his crimes against humanity.”
Twitter allowed the photos — and a trending topic based on the fake news — to spread one day after the Silicon Valley giant slapped a “fact check” label to a pair of tweets from President Trump expressing widely-held concerns about mail-in ballots increasing the risk of voter fraud. The “fact check” link, which urged users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots,” directed users to a Twitter “moment” — a collection of links and tweets, handpicked by Twitter employees.
The “moment,” intended to fact-check the President, was filled with establishment media articles from CNN, the Washington Post, and other outlets, baselessly asserting that Trump was lying about mail-in ballots. This is reportedly the first time the social media platform has branded Trump’s tweets with a link to a “fact check” of this type.
Several conservative users are calling out the platform for the apparent double standard of punishing some verified accounts but not others for misinformation.
Update: Twitter notified us at 8:53 pm EST — 12 hours after Ice Cube posted his original viral tweet, which accumulated 40,000 retweets in that timespan — that a “manipulated media” warning had been added to “hundreds” of tweets containing the doctored photo. At least two other tweets from verified users [1, 2] are still circulating, as of this update, without the warning label.
David Ng and Ezra Dulis contributed to this reporting.