Forbes cover honoring Iranian leader is fake

An image circulating across platforms purports to show a Forbes cover celebrating supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "the most powerful man" after Iran launched its first-ever direct assault against Israel. But the most recent print issue features an American investor -- and a Forbes spokesperson confirmed the magazine did not publish the fake edition shared online.

"Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is featured on the cover of Forbes magazine with the caption 'The Most Powerful Man in the World,'" said an April 17, 2024 post on X.

The post, which has since been deleted, came from an anonymous account called "S p r i n t e r F a c t o r y," which has regularly promoted disinformation under various aliases about Iran's attack on Israel and the wars in the Gaza Strip and Ukraine.

Screenshot from X taken April 18, 2024

Similar posts shared the supposed cover -- which features Khamenei's face and is dated April 15, 2024 -- across X and other platforms, including Instagram and TikTok.

Iran raised regional tensions to new heights with its April 13 attack on Israel, more than six months into a deadly conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The barrage of drones and missiles -- countered with the support of the United States and other allies -- was retaliation for a deadly April 1 strike widely blamed on Israel that hit Iran's consulate in Damascus, the capital of Syria. State media on April 19 reported explosions in central Iran, as US outlets quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes against its arch-rival. 

Khamenei had warned after the Damascus strike that Israel would "be slapped" -- but the Forbes cover celebrating him as the world's "most powerful man" is fabricated and is not from any of the magazine's worldwide editions or websites.

"The image in question is not a real Forbes cover and was never published on any of our platforms," a magazine spokesperson told AFP in an April 18 statement.

Reverse image searches did not surface any such issue in print or online, nor does it appear on the Forbes website's glossary of back issues for sale (archived here). The cover for April and May 2024 features Todd Boehly, an American billionaire investor (archived here).

Screenshot from Forbes taken April 19, 2024

Khamenei also does not appear on Forbes's list of daily cover stories, which for April 15 includes articles about executives, an artificial intelligence startup founder and a Lithuanian clothing resale company (archived here).

The photo of Khamenei is not an original Forbes shot, either. AFP found it published on numerous websites, including the supreme leader's official site in 2015 (archived here).

Screenshot from The Office of the Supreme Leader taken April 19, 2024

AFP has debunked other misinformation about Israel's conflicts with Iran and Hamas here.

Is there content that you would like AFP to fact-check? Get in touch.

Contact us