White House remarks about Hitler and Stalin were faked

A video circulating online appears to show White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling a journalist that the United States and Ukraine were jointly responsible for toppling the regimes of Adolf Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. But the clip is altered, the reporter and White House told AFP; the original footage reveals that their exchange was in fact about humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip amid Israel's war with Hamas. 

"White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that World War II was won by the Americans and Ukrainians, who fought together against Stalin...," says a May 8, 2024 post from "S p r i n t e r F a c t o r y," an anonymous X account that has previously spread disinformation, including fabricated images and videos of President Joe Biden.

Screenshot from X taken May 8, 2024

The video purports to show Andrew Feinberg, White House correspondent for The Independent, saying Ukraine has "mixed views" on Nazi ideology and asking Jean-Pierre: "Why aren't we condemning Ukrainian manifestations of Nazism and continuing to sponsor it?"

The press secretary appears to respond: "Seventy-nine years ago, the United States and our Ukrainian allies joined forces to combat the oppressive regimes of Hitler and Stalin. While Berlin is now an ally, the threat from the East persists. That's why we're committed to standing by Ukraine and offering our full support in any way we can."

The clip, which includes Russian-language subtitles, appears to have pinballed across Russian Telegram channels before spreading in English and Spanish to X and other platforms, including Facebook.

It echoes the Moscow-driven narrative about Ukrainian leaders being "Nazis," a staple of the war-related disinformation that has flooded social media since the start of Russia's invasion.

It also attempts to portray Jean-Pierre as ignorant on the history of World War II, when the US and Soviet Union allied against Nazi Germany after Hitler launched an invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Hitler and Stalin had previously signed a pact of non-aggression that enabled Germany to invade Poland at the start of the war.

But the video is manipulated, with inauthentic audio layered over unrelated clips from a press conference that were spliced together.

Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley, told AFP a model trained to distinguish real from fake voices classified the audio for both speakers as generated by artificial intelligence (archived here).

Another tool that measures the synchronization between lip movements and speech also assessed the video as fake, Farid said, aligning with what he said were "clear visual clues" of manipulation.

"I am confident that this is a lip-sync deepfake powered by AI-generated voices," Farid said in a May 9 email.

Audio changed

A reverse image search revealed the footage corresponds to Jean-Pierre's press conference on May 7 (archived here).

Screenshot from Facebook taken May 9, 2024
Screenshot from YouTube taken May 9, 2024

Given the chance to speak, Feinberg mentioned the famine sweeping Gaza and the closure of checkpoints for humanitarian aid at Kerem Shalom and Rafah in southern Israel. 

"Does the White House have any plan to convince, cajole, pressure Israel into allowing a steady flow of aid into Gaza, other than asking nicely?" he asked.

In response, Jean-Pierre recited data on the commercial and humanitarian trucks that have entered Gaza in recent weeks, saying Kerem Shalom and Rafah are "not the only two" crossings, but that aid is still important and "it is unacceptable that these two crossings are closed."

Separate exchange

The visual of Jean-Pierre featured in the altered clip, meanwhile, comes from another part of the press conference, when she fielded a question about NATO's leadership.

Her stance at the podium and hand gestures match those from the manipulated version shared online.

Screenshot from Facebook taken May 9, 2024
Screenshot from YouTube taken May 9, 2024

The press secretary never mentioned Hitler or Stalin at any point during the back-and-forth with Feinberg, in response to the question about NATO or elsewhere during the briefing.

"This exchange did not happen," White House Senior Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a May 9 email.

Feinberg added that the clip is "completely fake."

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union when World War II broke out, its people having suffered in the years prior from a devastating famine caused by Stalin's policies.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the war in Ukraine here.

This fact-check was updated to add additional historical background about World War II
May 14, 2024 This fact-check was updated to add additional historical background about World War II

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