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Fake Times Square billboard circulates as Zelensky visits US

Fake Times Square billboard circulates as Zelensky visits US - Featured image

Author(s): Bill MCCARTHY / AFP USA

A video shared across social media appears to show a New York City digital billboard displaying Volodymyr Zelensky’s face and text that says, “Glory to Urine” as the Ukrainian president visited the United States in September 2023. But the clip is doctored; the company that owns the sign told AFP it has run no such message.

“OOPS: Billboard in New York accidentally greets Zelenskyy with ‘Glory to Urine’ instead of ‘Glory to Ukraine,'” said a September 21, 2023 post sharing the 6-second clip on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

The post came from the Blaze, a conservative website that has previously spread other misinformation, and it has since been deleted.

Screenshot from X, formerly known as Twitter, taken September 21, 2023

The video appears to show a billboard in New York City’s Times Square. It fanned out across X and other platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube, as Zelensky traveled to the United Nations General Assembly and then Washington for meetings with the White House and US Congress.

The trip marked the Ukrainian leader’s second tour of the United States since Russia’s invasion of his country in February 2022.

But Zelensky was not received with an electronic sign in Times Square saying, “Glory to Urine.”

“The images are 100 percent fake,” said Erin Watkins, general counsel for Big Outdoor, the company that owns and operates the billboard in question on the corner of West 42nd Street and 8th Avenue (archived here).

“We do operate the sign shown in the video and have confirmed that the copy shown in the photos and videos circulating online did not run on the sign,” Watkins told AFP in a September 22 email, adding that the billboard flips between varying advertisements at any given time.

In response to the viral video, NBC News senior reporter Ben Collins and others on X took and posted videos and photos from the same street corner on September 21 that showed other advertisements on the billboard (archived here and here).

They noted that the “Glory to Urine” video shows scaffolding that is no longer at the intersection. Google Maps Street View imagery shows the same scaffolding was standing in September 2021 but was taken down by at least August 2022 (archived here).

The doctored clip is also watermarked with the logo for Fox News Digital, but the network said it has not posted any such footage.

“Fox News Digital did not publish this video,” a network spokesperson told AFP in a September 22 email.

The claims fit a larger pattern of misinformation targeting Ukraine. Similarly manipulated images have purported to show cities around the world opposing the war effort by erecting anti-Ukraine and anti-Zelensky signs and billboards, including in New York City.

AFP has debunked other false claims about the conflict here.

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Originally published here.
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