I saw the photo in the Featured Image above (without the caption). I’m not sure where, guessing Twitter.

When I saw it, my thought was something along the lines of “that’s not a good look for Trump, feeds the anti-Trump narrative about Russia.” I didn’t pay it a lot of attention, but I distinctly remember it and my reaction.

It turns out it’s a fake.

Here is the original Getty Images photo (via Evan McMurry on Twitter)

It’s not completely clear how it got started, but it was mega-viral on Twitter. The New Statesman traces the history, and points to a tweet from a Turkish Twitter user:

Over the weekend the picture spread across social media, accumulating hundreds of thousands of retweets and shares. Some users quickly pointed out the photo was faked and that Putin had been Photoshopped into an empty chair. Despite this, the picture continued to spread, with many making memes and jokes about a moment that never even happened.

It is not clear where the picture originated. @Hasavrat is a Turkish Twitter user who gained more than 15,000 retweets and 25,000 likes on her tweet of the picture on 8 July, which was captioned: “A Renaissance painting of our age”. She tells me she found the image on the “Turkish Twittersphere” and she doesn’t know who created it. “It was one of those feeds that does political satire and meme-type commenting – we call it #Goygoy in Turkish,” she explains.


The New Statesman also points to a possible Russian connection, at least in helping it spread:

One of the other earliest posts of the Photoshop was shared by the Russian journalist Vladimir Soloviev, who shared it on his Facebook page on 8 July and deleted it after it emerged it was fake. This has led to some claiming the picture was created and spread by the Russian media to showcase Putin’s power.

Buzzfeed points out that the ribbon on Merkel’s suit also suggests a Russian connection:

Another big giveaway that the photo is fake is the ribbon Angela Merkel is wearing. The ribbon of St. George is a military award which has been adapted by patriots as a symbol for Russian nationalism.

BBC points to the Russian connection as well.

Pro-Kremlin activist Ilias Merkouri tweeted the image to his 162,000 followers with the caption “The scale of personality”.

Sergey Markov, a former MP and supporter of President Putin, also picked it up, speaking ironically about “Russia’s isolation” in a Facebook post, now deleted.

It may have started in Turkey or Russia, but it got plenty of help from American liberals (is that “collusion”?).

Snopes links to this tweet by Parker Molloy, a writer at liberal website Upworthy:


Molloy’s tweet is now deleted, but not before there were over 21,000 Retweets and over 43,000 likes.

In case you are not aware, Upworthy specializes in overly-simplified liberal memes, as described in my 2013 post, Upworthy — or, How we are losing the internet to lowest of low information young liberals.

Now you know the story, and so do many people.

But how many of those tens of thousands of retweets seen by millions of people created a misimpression?


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