Fabricated Trump post circulates around DeSantis campaign launch

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A supposed screenshot that shows Donald Trump calling Twitter owner Elon Musk a "losing loser" and Ron DeSantis "loser 'meatball' Ron" circulated online before the Florida governor launched a White House bid in a glitchy Twitter livestream. But the purported post is fabricated; the message does not appear on live or archived versions of the former US president's Truth Social feed.

"Elon Musk is a losing loser with a losing social media platform that's losing billions!!!" says the supposed Trump post, written in all capital letters. "Now he supports loser 'meatball' Ron!!! Sad!!!"

Screenshot from Instagram taken May 25, 2023

The screengrab spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms ahead of DeSantis's May 24, 2023 announcement, which was roiled by technical setbacks.

The Republican Florida governor filed papers with the Federal Election Commission before the event with Musk, Twitter's owner since October 2022. DeSantis joins a crowded Republican primary headlined by Trump, who has retained his frontrunner status despite being implicated in several legal investigations.

While Trump posted about DeSantis several times before and after the announcement, the statement shared online is fake -- the post does not appear in live or archived versions of the former president's Truth Social feed.

Trump instead shared various polls and survey results showing him outperforming DeSantis, articles critical of the governor's prospects and attack ads. Using various nicknames, Trump claimed he salvaged DeSantis's gubernatorial campaign and criticized his record, electability and sense of fashion.

He ridiculed DeSantis's glitchy campaign launch, calling it "FATAL" and a "catastrophe." Trump also shared videos that mock Musk and the difficulties that plagued Twitter's livestream.

There are a few other telltale signs the post shared online is inauthentic.

For example, the image includes a "1mo" timestamp in the upper right-hand corner, meaning the post would have predated the news of DeSantis's launch.

The photo also uses an outdated profile picture -- Trump changed his Truth Social icon to artwork showing his face in the colors of the American flag on January 31, 2023.

AFP contacted the Trump campaign for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has previously debunked other fabricated Trump posts here, here and here.

US POLITICS US elections 2024