Hoaxes & Rumors

Did John Kerry Use an Old Photo From Iraq to Promote Syria Attack?

Did John Kerry Use an Old Photo From Iraq to Promote Syria Attack?

Did John Kerry use a 2003 photo of dead Iraqi children in his speech regarding the recent Syrian chemical attack?

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The claim is false.

In 2012, the BBC falsely used a 2003 image from Iraq in a story about the Houla massacre in Syria which occurred on May 25, 2012. The BBC apologized and the image was removed. The image was not used by John Kerry in 2013.

Let’s take a look at the claim circulating since August 30, 2013:

So, Secretary of State John Kerry referenced this photograph when making his speech today, trying to drive home how awful the Syrian chemical attack was as he tried to convince us why we should go to war. One problem. The picture isn’t even from Syria. It’s from Iraq in 2003. The photographer, Marco di Lauro, said he nearly “fell off his chair” when he saw it was being used to promote a war in Syria. It’s getting pretty disturbing to see how far our politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are willing to go to drum up support for a war nobody wants.

News Report

A video posted online (since removed) was circulated with the false claims about the image being used on August 30, 2013. This video was posted to YouTube over a year before John Kerry’s speech and clearly shows a headline referencing the Houla massacre of 2012.

John Kerry’s Speech

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered remarks on Friday, August 30, 2013 regarding recent events in Syria. As you can see in the video of the full speech below, no photographs were referenced.

Kerry’s remarks referenced a similar scene as the photo in question:

“Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.”

It would be assumption on the part of those spreading this rumor that Kerry had that particular photo in mind while speaking these words.

Photographer Response

Photographer Marco di Lauro did make the statement that he nearly “fell out of his chair” when he saw his 2003 image being used. “I was surprised to see my image, which was captured in Iraq in 2003, used by the BBC in their recent article around the Syria massacre in Houla. It was reported that the image was captured and sent in by an activist; however this is not the case. I took the image in 2003, when working on a story titled Iraq, the Aftermath of Saddam, which can be viewed on my website:”

This statement was published on his blog in June 2012 after the Houla massacre (which he referenced), not after John Kerry’s speech on August 30, 2013.

BBC Apology

On May 29, 2012, the BBC issued an apology for using the 2003 in a story about the Houla massacre, stating, “It was a mistake – rectified by the removal of the image as soon as it was spotted – and we apologise for it.”

Bottom Line

John Kerry did not reference the 2003 image in his speech on August 30, 2013. The photo was mistakenly used by the BBC in May 2012 in a story about the Houla massacre. Some people in social media are combining the 2012 BBC mix-up with John Kerry’s speech to falsely claim the image was used by the Secretary of State in his 2013 remarks.


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