Chinese social media posts share fabricated White House press exchange about Moon missions

Chinese social media posts have shared a fabricated exchange between White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and a reporter, falsely suggesting that NASA's 1969 Moon landing was a hoax. The posts incorrectly claimed that Jean-Pierre said the US and China landed on "different moons" after she was asked why the latter's Chang'e 6 probe found "no traces" of NASA's mission in May 2024. As of May 22, the White House had not commented on China's Moon probe launch.

"['Two Moons?'] In response to a reporter's question during a press conference, the White House spokesperson once again made a ridiculous statement," read the simplified Chinese caption of an X post alongside a photo of press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on May 12, 2024.

"When the reporter asked 'how is it that China's Chang'e 6 probe found no traces of the US' Moon landing?'..This 'black girl' spokesperson bizarrely said 'The US Moon landing and China's probe landed on different moons'. Could there be two moons?" the post continued.

Screenshot of the false post, taken on May 14, 2024

The post surfaced after China launched its Chang'e-6 space probe on May 3, 2024 to collect samples in a technically complex 53-day mission that will also see it attempt an unprecedented launch from the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth.

It is the latest leap for China's ambitious space programme, which Washington has warned is being used to mask military objectives and an effort to establish extraterrestrial dominance.

The fabricated exchange in the White House press room appeared to suggest NASA's 1969 Moon landing was faked, circulating across social media platforms including Facebook; Weibo; TikTok and its Chinese sister app Douyin here and here.

Millions of people across the world still believe that the moment astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk the lunar surface was a hoax shot in a Hollywood studio.

Fake quote

The White House has not publicly commented on China's Chang'e-6 probe since its launch on May 3.

Full transcripts of press briefings by Jean-Pierre on May 3, May 6, May 7, and May 9, following the probe launch, show no record of her mentioning Chang'e-6 (archived links here, here, here, and here).

The May 3 transcript shows reporters' questions focused on Israel's war in Gaza, a meeting between Star Wars actor Mark Hamill and President Joe Biden, as well as abortion, among others.

Reporters' questions during the following briefings were also largely about Gaza and Israel's campaign in the territory, as well as other domestic US issues.

Chang'e-6 entered the Moon's orbit on May 8, 2024, according to information released by China's National Space Administration and is expected to land in early June (archived link)

Unrelated photo

A reverse image search on Google found the photo of Jean-Pierre used in the false posts corresponded to a Reuters photo published on November 23, 2022 (archived link).

"U.S. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 18, 2022," read the caption.

During that briefing, Jean-Pierre was asked about student loans; procedural questions on the investigation into former president Donald Trump; US relations with Saudi Arabia; Taylor Swift concert tickets and other domestic issues -- but not about China's space programme (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison between the image in the false post (left) and the Reuters photo (right):

Screenshot comparison between the image in the false post (left) and the Reuters photo (right)

AFP has previously debunked misleading claims about Jean-Pierre here, and conspiracy theories about the Moon landing here.

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