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Photo edited to make LA County health director appear sick

May 18, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows Los Angeles County health director looking unwell.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The photo was manipulated to make the health director appear sickly, her face pale and her eyes ringed by dark circles. 

THE FACTS: An altered photo showing Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, circulated widely on social media over the weekend. 

Several social media users shared the manipulated image to suggest that Ferrer was in poor health. 

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“The health director of Los Angeles is the most unhealthy looking person I have ever seen,” a Twitter user posted on May 15. The post had over 23,000 retweets. A screenshot of the tweet also circulated on Facebook.

“This is the health director of Los Angeles. Any questions?,” Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative commentator, stated May 16, tweeting the altered photo. The post had over 14,000 retweets. He later replied to a Twitter user who pointed out that the photo was false, “Okay, I got carried away with this one. Thanks for calling me on it.” 

The image was taken from a press briefing Ferrer gave on May 13. In footage from the event, Ferrer appears to be in good health as she delivers COVID-19 updates. In the manipulated image, her eyes were darkened to make it appear she had dark circles and her face was made pale. 

Ferrer came under fire after saying on May 12 that some form of stay-at-home restrictions would likely remain “for the next three months.” She later apologized for inadvertently creating confusion around the issue.

“I had no intention of messaging that we weren’t changing our order to reflect our recovery journey,” she said in the press briefing.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536