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Fact check: Celebrity support for Palestinians or Israelis?

Thomas Sparrow | Alima de Graaf
May 15, 2024

The Israel-Hamas war seems to divide the world of celebrities. Though some have taken stances on social media, others, such as Stephen King and Robert De Niro, have become the subjects of fake stories.

King, De Niro manipulated content showing alleged support for Israel and Palestine.
A doctored image and misrepresented footage allege that King and De Niro have stancesImage: X

Claim: Several posts on social media, such as hereon X, show a photo of American author Stephen King wearing a T-shirt in support of Palestinians during Israel's military campaign in Gaza

DW fact check: Fake. 

The picture has been digitally altered. A first way of finding this out is by focusing on the pro-Palestinian print on the T-shirt. It is strangely two-dimensional and even seems to overlap King’s right hand. 

In a social media post, Stephen King appears to wear a shirt that says "free Palestine"
Image showing King supporting Palestine is manipulated. Image: X

A reverse image search on TinEye, provides further clues. The search leads to older posts, from 2022, which show the bestselling author wearing a T-shirt in support of Ukraine. 

The original photo can then be tracked to King’s account on X. A few days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the author wrote “I don't usually post pictures of myself, but today is an exception,” adding his picture with an “I stand with Ukraine” T-shirt. 

King is not the only public figure in recent weeks to have been affected by fake images. For instance, Harrison Ford was described as “pro-Palestine” in this post on Facebook, when in realitythe actor was talking about protecting the Amazon rain forest at a UN summit in 2019.  

These fakes have popped up especially as pro-Palestinian protests have spread at universities in the United States and in several other countries. 

Even before these latest demonstrations, celebrities were miscaptioned and misrepresented.  

For example, DW Fact Check verified fake videos of football star Cristiano Ronaldo allegedly showing his support for the Palestinian cause. 

Watch: How to spot disinformation in the Israel-Hamas war 

Videos out of context, misleading subtitles added

Claim: Social media accounts such as this one shared a 34-second video of actor Robert De Niro allegedly confronting pro-Palestinian protesters and defending Israel. "You want to keep talking nonsense, then you got to go home," De Niro is heard saying, and "They say they're going to do it again. Again! We don't want that." 

DW fact check: False. 

The video was taken out of context and edited by adding misleading titles, subtitles and captions to highlight De Niro's alleged support for Israel.  

A screenshot of a Tweet that purports to show Rober De Niro supporting Israel
Tweet with video of Robert De Niro falsly subtitled as showing support for Israel. Image: X

Israeli outlets such as The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz published this story. However, The Jerusalem Post issued a correction and Haaretz deleted the article later.  

In reality, De Niro's clip was originally filmed on April 27, 2024, during the shooting of the Netflix series "Zero Day."  

Actress Mozhan Navabi, who also stars in the series, posted on X that the scene was a rehearsal and entirely fictional. 

Moreover, both De Niro’s representative, Stan Rosenfield, and Netflix were quoted as saying that De Niro’s lines were part of the script.  

Another hint that the video is shown in the wrong context is that De Niro does not support Israel in the clip, as some of the subtitles suggest. 

This video, for instance, claims that "Robert De Niro Stands with Israel!" and adds "October 7th" to the subtitles. This alludes to the October 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel. 

De Niro does not reference the conflict at all, nor does the clip show any demonstrators. 

Another false claim is that users say the video was shot at the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). However, pictures of the “Zero Day” shooting on Getty Images reveal that they were taken on Wall Street in New York City.  

Fact-Checking Screenshot Google Maps image of the stairs to the Wall Street Station
Screenshot of Google Maps, showing the location where De Niro's video was shot. Image: Google Maps

Visual cues from the video help find the location on Google Maps. Some of these cues are the turquoise structure of the subway, its shapes and the board with text.  

A search on Google Maps helps pinpoint the location as being next to the Wall Street subway station.  

For more information on how to spot fake images, have a look at DW’s Fact check page