Fact check: The wrong love story about Nancy Pelosi

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An alleged wedding photo of Nancy Pelosi is currently circulating on the Internet. It is said to show the Chair of the US House of Representatives with Chinese journalist Hu Xijin. But the whole thing is fake.

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The visit of US top politician Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has caused a stir politically and diplomatically and has already led to harsh reactions from the Chinese government. The visit of the US delegation also sparked discussions online. In addition to arguments for and against the visit and US support for Taiwan, false claims and fake content are now circulating. Among other things, this adventurous – and not to be taken seriously – story.

Claim: “When they were young: Nancy Pelosi and Hu Xijin,” wrote a Twitter user over a photo purportedly showing the speaker of the US House of Representatives and former editor-in-chief of the Chinese newspaper Global Times. “A perfect couple,” commented another user. 

DW fact check: Wrong.

The photo was photoshopped. It consists of two composite, older pictures: One shows the young Nancy Pelosi, but in the original not next to Xijin, but with her family. Seated is her father Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., also a politician. Pelosi, third from left, posted the picture to Flickr with the caption, “With family as a young girl.” It also appeared on one of their campaign pages.
The other picture shows the young Hu Xijin. A reverse image search
leads to a tweet from the journalist writing about his time in the Chinese military (“unforgettable years”) and adding the photo that is now featured in the alleged wedding picture.  

Pelosi is 20 years older than Xijin

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

The forensic image analysis shows different color compositions in the two people in the image – an indication of manipulation

The age difference between Pelosi and Xijin alone could have made you suspicious: Pelosi is 82 years old, Hu Xijin is 20 years younger. In this photo from 1960 with the future US President John F. Kennedy, Pelosi is similar in age to the alleged wedding photo. Xijin was just born in 1960, which also excludes the authenticity of the picture. 

Fun fake with a serious background

On a delicate mission: Nancy Peolosi (left) visiting Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen

< p>The background of the fake picture: Internet users apparently made fun of the picture collage: Hu Xijin is a harsh critic of Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. He pleaded on the Chinese network Weibo for “military countermeasures” should Pelosi visit Taiwan because it is “the only language that the US and Taiwan understand”. He even wrote on Twitter that the Chinese People's Liberation Army should “shoot down” Pelosi's plane en route to Taiwan if it didn't 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 in this context that many users found it funny to see both in one picture, and as pair.

Fact check: How do I recognize manipulated images?