Fact check: False claim different images of John Fetterman prove he was replaced by a body double

The claim: Images prove John Fetterman was replaced by a body double

A March 27 Instagram post (direct link, archived link) shows a screenshot of a tweet featuring two images of Sen. John Fetterman.

“It’s a miracle … In only 3 weeks, John Fetterman got a total head replacement,” read the tweet. “Man, he has some good doctors.”

The post’s caption includes the hashtags #notthesame and #double.

The Instagram post received over 80 likes in less than a week and the original tweet accumulated over 70,000 likes. Similar posts have spread widely on Instagram.

Our rating: False

The photos in the post do not prove a body double replaced Fetterman. A forensics expert said the pictures look different because they were taken under different conditions and from different angles.

Body double did not replace Fetterman

The body double conspiracy theory was amplified by conservatives such as Juanita Broaddrick, who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault, and George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who served a two-week prison sentence for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

It also spread on websites like Gateway Pundit, which USA TODAY has debunked numerous times, and by supporters of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fetterman, a Pennsylvania Democrat, checked into the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland to receive treatment for clinical depression on Feb. 15, as USA TODAY reported. He is expected to return to the Senate in April.

The photos in the post are not proof he was replaced by a body double.

The image of Fetterman in a gray hoodie smiling was taken in May 2022 when he was discharged from the Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital after suffering a stroke. The original image shows Fetterman next to his wife, who also tweeted a video of him exiting the hospital.

The image of Fetterman in a coat and suit was taken in February before President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. In the original image, Fetterman is standing next to Dennis Horton, who was imprisoned for 28 years for a crime he did not commit.

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Fetterman looks different in the two images because they were taken under different circumstances, according to David Brady, a professor of optical sciences at the University of Arizona.

Brady said Fetterman’s head appears taller in the hoodie shot because the camera is coming from a lower angle, which will cause things to look taller. Other camera settings and details also change Fetterman’s appearance.

“The camera perspective on his face is different,” Brady said. “One is straight on, one is shot obliquely from his left. They are at different focal lengths and ranges. All of these factors change the relative scale of his features. The lighting is different. One is lit diffusely, one is lit with a bright source from his left. This changes the lines on his face.”

V.S. Subrahmanian, a computer science professor at Northwestern University, agreed.

“The lighting conditions under which the second image was captured appear to be superior to the first,” Subrahmanian said. “This might explain why Sen. Fetterman seems more vibrant in the second image.”

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

AFP and Lead Stories also debunked the claim.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim images prove Fetterman replaced by body double

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