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Video of California governor was manipulated to suggest vaccine reaction

November 12, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows California Gov. Gavin Newsom developed Bell’s palsy after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The video is manipulated to make it appear that the left side of Newsom’s face is drooping. The original, unedited video is posted to Newsom’s official Twitter account and the distortion is not there.

THE FACTS: The governor was recently absent from public life for nearly two weeks. Social media users speculated -- without any evidence -- that Newsom had developed a reaction to the COVID-19 booster shot he received on Oct. 27.

Two days after the jab, his office released a statement that Newsom was canceling his plans to travel to Scotland for the U.N. climate summit due to “family obligations.” Newsom later clarified that he chose to spend Halloween with his family.

On Wednesday, during a public appearance, he said he had no side-effects from the jab. He said the claims posited on social media about him were another example of misinformation campaigns “that are going on across the spectrum in this country,” The Associated Press reported.

But social media users shared an obviously altered video of Newsom, where one side of his face was distorted. Online posts claimed Newsom had developed Bell’s palsy, a disorder that causes paralysis on one side of the face. While multiple social media users pointed out that the video was edited, other comments suggested the clip was genuine.

The manipulated video contains the watermark of a Twitter user’s handle that describes themselves as a “digital artist.” The original video of the governor wishing people a happy Diwali can be found on Newsom’s official Twitter account, where it was posted on November 4.

During a visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Wednesday, Newsom was asked about the public outcry and speculation about him in recent days. The governor responded that he was “sort of bewildered” by it.

“I drove into the office every single day, into the Capitol, walked the halls of the Capitol with my kids, spending time with my team, quite literally every single day,” he said.

“And then I started seeing some things bubble up on social media: ‘Where’s the governor?’ I’m at work. I’m doing work.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.