Fact Check

Look Out for Fake Pic of Elon Musk Holding a 'Trump Won' Flag

A digitally edited photo of Musk holding a "Trump Won, Democrats Cheated" flag circulated on social media.

Published Dec 11, 2023

 ( Getty Images)
Image Via Getty Images
A photo shared around social media in December 2023 shows Elon Musk holding a flag that says "Trump Won, Democrats Cheated."

In late 2023, after Elon Musk echoed an antisemitic conspiracy theory in an X post, major companies like Disney and Apple pulled advertisements from the site, starting a boycott. At the 2023 DealBook Summit in New York City, hosted by The New York Times, Musk responded to the trend:

"Bob" referred to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spoke earlier in the day.

A photo of Musk taken by Getty Images photographer Slaven Vlasic just as Musk delivered the second, emphatic "F---," complete with a firm hand gesture, inspired a Photoshop connoisseur online. (The authentic, unedited photo is at the top of this article.) However, the image you see below of Musk apparently holding a flag reading, "Trump Won, Democrats Cheated," was created and posted on X (formerly Twitter), where many commenters believed it was real.

A white man holds a flag that says, "Trump won, Democrats cheated!" (@PapiTrumpo/X)

The photo is not real. Musk was not holding a flag in the original. Snopes determined this in two different ways: by carefully examining the edited photo and by identifying each of the original images used to create the composite.

First, the examination of the photo: two things gave the photo away as edited. One was the dramatic difference in clarity between the flag and everything else. While the flag was really clear and well-defined, everything else was quite grainy, an effect that can only be the result of combining two photos of different resolutions. Second, zooming in to the border of the flag revealed a thin (seriously, this is probably only a pixel wide or so) white outline on the very edges of the flag. That border would not be present if Musk actually had been photographed holding the flag.

Now to the identification: A reverse-image search on TinEye found 122 matches for the image, but none contained the flag. Regardless, sorting those results by date revealed that the earliest use of the photo was on Nov. 28, 2023, from an article on Fox Business. That article credited the photo to Getty Images, and searching "Elon Musk" on that site quickly revealed the original photo.

The flag wasn't difficult to find either. Searching "Trump Won Democrats Cheated" on Google Images yielded plenty of candidates, and it was a matter of matching the wrinkles and folds of those flags to what is present in the edited image. Since the border around the flag was white, we knew the flag must have been on a white background. Next, we used the lack of imperfections or wrinkles around the five white stars at the top of the flag in the edited photo to rule out candidates by perusing Amazon, Etsy and eBay. It took about five minutes of searching to find this listing on eBay. The crease running from the bottom of the W to the top right corner of the flag is an exact match. Case closed: the photo is fake.

This is not the only claim Snopes has fact-checked about Musk's comments at the DealBook summit. We also covered Bob Iger's supposed response and found that Iger's comments were made before Musk's criticism, not after.


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Jack Izzo is a Chicago-based journalist and two-time "Jeopardy!" alumnus.