On February 20 2020, a photograph purportedly showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) smiling in front of a “Trump 2020” sign made the rounds on Facebook:
Visible text at the top read:
This is so funny 😂😂Keep it posted on Facebook and other social media 👍
The image as it was shown here was not new in February 2020; in June 2018, it was shared to the site FreedomForceNews.com. And although the posts were undated, at least nine separate uploads of various screenshots involving the same image of Waters and Pelosi appeared under the “Fakebook” tag on meme aggregator OnSizzle in February 2020. It was also aggregated by me.me in August 2019.
Even Pelosi & Waters know POTUS Trump is GOOD FOR AMERICA; pic.twitter.com/4h5bTk6b9A
— Shoppers Briefer (@ShoppersBriefer) May 23, 2019
One user claimed without any visible proof that Pelosi and Waters were intoxicated when they posed for the picture, and therefore were not in a position to notice the “Trump 2020” sign directly above their heads:
This is priceless. These 2 Pelosi n maxi waters so hung over they didn’t realize they were posing in front of a TRUMP sign. Lmao pic.twitter.com/WFDIGZOWtI
— maria sperdini (@MSperdini) May 14, 2019
The image was also shared to Reddit’s r/forwardsfromgrandma, a subreddit devoted to satirizing Baby Boomers’ lack of social media fluency:
One commenter replied:
Ah, yes, that obviously Photoshopped poster was most definitely in the Capitol Press Office Hall.
As observed by that user, the image was almost certainly doctored; the obvious context aside, some iterations were suspiciously blurry. A reverse image search indicated the image was first crawled in February 2018, and it indeed lacked the “Trump 2020” sign.
On February 17 2018, Waters shared the undoctored image on Twitter:
— Maxine Waters (@RepMaxineWaters) February 17, 2018
In August 2018, Pelosi shared the same image in honor of Waters’ birthday:
Happy birthday to my friend and colleague @RepMaxineWaters. You are a strong, courageous and dedicated role model who knows how to get the job done. And that strikes fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump. pic.twitter.com/a5wyMd9wX7
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 15, 2018
Although the image with the Trump campaign poster in the background with the text addendum, “This is so funny 😂😂Keep it posted on Facebook and other social media 👍” version of the photograph of Waters and Pelosi was arguably more widely distributed on social media than the original, it was also clearly edited. When Waters first shared the image in February 2018, the space behind the lawmakers was visibly absent a “Trump 2020” sign. The subsequent images that commenters exhorted others to share were clearly edited and distributed in an apparent attempt to spread corrosive disinformation.