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Man greeted by Trump in photo did not lose arms in combat

September 11, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows President Donald Trump touching the face of a veteran who was “wounded so badly he had no arms.” 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The man in the photo was born without arms and has been featured in several news articles confirming that.

THE FACTS: A New York-based radio and television personality this week tweeted on Sept. 4 that a photo showed Trump with a wounded veteran, a false claim that rippled throughout other social media sites the following week.

“I remember when President Trump met a veteran wounded so badly that he had no arms,” Mark Simone wrote in his Sept. 4 tweet. “The President reached out and touched his face so he would feel the human contact.  #trump #MAGA #Veterans #VeteransForTrump

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The post was retweeted more than 7,000 times, and the claim was repeated in Facebook and Instagram posts collectively viewed more than 380,000 times.

The president also thanked Simone and reposted the image in a tweet shared more than 24,000 times.

The photo does clearly show Trump touching the face of a man with prosthetic arms. However, the caption is incorrect. The man pictured with Trump was born without arms and is not a wounded war veteran.

A reverse image search reveals the photo was taken at a 2016 rally, and the man pictured is Henry “Bubba” Stevenson Jr., who has appeared in several news articles explaining he was born without arms. 

In a 2014 local news story for WLTX-TV, Stevenson’s mother explained he used his feet to hold bottles and sippy cups as a toddler.

A 2016 article in the Chester News & Reporter featured photos matching the one posted by Simone. It also included that Stevenson was born with a right arm that “stops shy of his elbow and on his left side, there is only a nub below his shoulder.”

Neither article refers to Stevenson completing any military service.

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Simone’s initial tweet came a day after The Atlantic published allegations that Trump made negative remarks about American military members who had been captured or killed, including calling veterans who had died “suckers” and “losers.”

A day after the radio and TV host’s tweet was published, he followed up with another tweet arguing his debunked claim about the photo was “1,000,000% more accurate than the Atlantic Magazine hoax.”

Simone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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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