Fact Check

This Is Not a Real Photo of the Pope in a Puffy Coat

We will soon be drowning in AI-generated deepfake images.

Published March 26, 2023

Image courtesy of Reddit
A viral photo showing Pope Francis in a white puffer jacket is authentic.

The image was computer-generated using an artificial intelligence (AI) app.

On March 25, 2023, a photo that appeared to show 86-year-old Pope Francis out and about in a fashionable white puffer jacket went viral on social media. 

pic of the pope in a puffy coat

As many who saw it suspected, it was actually a deepfake image created via artificial intelligence (AI). It originally appeared on Reddit in the r/midjourney subreddit. Midjourney is an app that generates images from natural-language prompts (much like DALL-E, another well-known AI image-generating app). Many Midjourney experimenters share their creations in the subreddit. The image above was part of a gallery comprising four different views of the pope in a puffy coat.

March 2023 was something of a breakout month for AI-generated deepfakes. Mid-month, former U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that he expected to be arrested soon in connection with the Stormy Daniels hush-money case prompted a flood of deepfake images on social media positing imaginative scenarios surrounding such an arrest. 


Emery, David. "9 Wild Rumors About the Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels Affair." Snopes, 21 Mar. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/list/donald-trump-stormy-daniels-rumors/.

Evon, Dan. "How to Spot a Deepfake." Snopes, 8 June 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/423004/how-to-spot-a-deepfake/.

LaMagdeleine, Izz Scott. "No, This Is Not a Real Photo of Trump Being Arrested." Snopes, 20 Mar. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-getting-arrested-ai-image/.

"Midjourney." Midjourney, https://www.midjourney.com/home/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

https://www.reddit.com/gallery/120vhdc?rdt=63206. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

David Emery is a West Coast-based writer and editor with 25 years of experience fact-checking rumors, hoaxes, and contemporary legends.