Fact Check

That Picture of Betty White Flipping the Bird is Fake

... But the real, original photo is arguably even better.

Published Jan 5, 2022

NEW YORK - JUNE 11:  Actress Betty White visits Fuse's "No. 1 Countdown" at fuse Studios on June 11, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images) (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Actress Betty White visits Fuse's "No. 1 Countdown" at fuse Studios on June 11, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Claim:
A widely-shared photograph of Betty White brandishing her middle finger and smiling was authentic.

After the death of Betty White on Dec. 31, 2021, internet users enthusiastically posted what appeared to be a photo of the television icon sticking up her middle finger for the cameras, in a gesture of mischief and defiance:

betty white middle finger flipping the bird

In recent years, that particular image, and slightly modified variations, had also appeared in social media memes, as well as merchandise like car decals and stickers:

Betty White middle finger

In reality, though, it was a fake. In June 2009, White made the "rock on" hand gesture while appearing on the "#1 Countdown" show on the music TV network Fuse. That picture can be viewed in its proper, original context, via the website of the Getty photographic agency:

NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Actress Betty White visits Fuse's "No. 1 Countdown" at fuse Studios on June 11, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

Whoever created the "bird" versions simply applied some digital editing to White's hand. 

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Sources

 
“Actress Betty White Visits Fuse’s ‘No. 1 Countdown’ at Fuse Studios...” Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/actress-betty-white-visits-fuses-no-1-countdown-at-fuse-news-photo/88433782. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.
 
“Betty White, TV’s Golden Girl, Dies at 99.” AP NEWS, 31 Dec. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/betty-white-dead-2954b57e571cffaba32b3983b1bbc7f9.

Dan Mac Guill is a former writer for Snopes.

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