Fact Check

DeSantis Deepfake Shows Him Saying Leadership is ‘About Fooling the Voters’

The video is a result of someone slightly editing real footage of the Florida governor and pairing it with fictitious audio.

Published Apr 25, 2023

 (Screenshot via Twitter/WarlordDilley)
Image Via Screenshot via Twitter/WarlordDilley
Claim:
A video was recorded of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis once saying, “Leadership is about fooling the voters. It’s about book deals and globalism. Leadership is about getting ahead, no matter who you stab in the back. In my America, the highest bidder wins. That’s the leadership America needs. Hail Hydra!”
Context

The video in which DeSantis purportedly said these words is a deepfake. There is no evidence that he made such a statement to reporters.

On April 23, 2023, as speculation swirled around Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis potentially launching a 2024 presidential campaign, Twitter users shared a video in which the Republican leader supposedly explained his definition of leadership: "[It's] about fooling the voters." 

The video showed DeSantis standing at a podium, supposedly in front an off-camera audience, saying:

Leadership is about fooling the voters. It's about book deals and globalism. Leadership is about getting ahead, no matter who you stab in the back. In my America the highest bidder wins. That's the leadership America needs. Hail Hydra!

This video was clearly a deepfake; in other words, it was the result of someone slightly editing real footage of DeSantis and pairing it with fictitious audio. It's unclear from where the footage originated, or what DeSantis actually said in the recorded clip.

We know the in-question audio is a deepfake due to the odd manner in which DeSantis' lips move, as well as the fact that there is no proof he said these words about leadership. If he had, and if the alleged quote had authentically been recorded in a video shared on social media, that clip would have been a major news story covered by reliable media outlets. 

A similar deepfake video circulated weeks earlier, in late March 2023, showing the governor standing in front of U.S. flags wearing a slightly different outfit but exhibiting the same strange facial movements. In that video, the fake audio had DeSantis reacting to the news of former U.S. President Donald Trump's indictment, saying, "Now the people have no choice but to accept me as their assigned candidate, and finally we can sweep the GOP establishment back into power." 

In both deepfake videos, the fake audio had DeSantis ending the comments with "Hail Hydra!" a reference to the fictional villainous Marvel organization from the comic books and movies, which is often compared to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party. 

We have shared tips for spotting deepfakes in the past, such as: look carefully at the mouth of the speaker, scan for any potential discoloration, and note the video's source.

Given that DeSantis did not actually say this quote about leadership and the video is a deepfake, we rate this claim as "False." 

Sources

Evon, Dan. "How to Spot a Deepfake." Snopes, 8 June 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/423004/how-to-spot-a-deepfake/. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023. 

Ibrahim, Nur. "DeSantis Deepfake Imagines a 2024 Presidential Campaign Amid Trump Indictment." Snopes, 31 Mar. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ron-desantis-trump-gop-candidate/. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023. 

Ibrahim, Nur. "Did Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis Get Married at Disney World?" Snopes, 18 Apr. 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ron-desantis-married-disney-world/. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023. 

Luscombe, Richard. "Rough Week, Ron? DeSantis Flounders with Disney Feud and Abortion Stance." The Guardian, 22 Apr. 2023. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/apr/22/desantis-2024-polls-florida-disney. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023. 

"Why Trump Is Beating DeSantis Among D.C. Republicans." The New Yorker, 24 Apr. 2023, https://web.archive.org/web/20230424060618/https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/why-trump-is-beating-desantis-among-dc-republicans. Accessed 25 Apr. 2023. 

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.