Hoaxes & Rumors

Mandela “Corpse Photo” and other Hoaxes

Mandela “Corpse Photo” and other Hoaxes

In the days after the death of Nelson Mandela in December 2013, several hoaxes, odd stories, and fake news circulated.

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Mandela “Corpse” Photo

An image circulated heavily on social media soon after Mandela’s death, with a caption stating the photo showed Mandela “in the coffin” which had been leaked.

The photo, however, is actually a closeup of Mandela from 1991 with his eyes closed. It could be found at the time of the hoax in the Getty Images database with a caption that read, “Portrait of anti-apartheid leader and African National Congress (ANC) member Nelson Mandela, 02 July 1991, in Durban, during the ANC’s first national congress to be held in the country in the last 30 years. Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail, was freed on 11 February 1990. (Photo credit should read TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)”

AFP’s Photo Department also tweeted in response to the photo, stating, “Photo of ‘dead’ Mandela is actually #AFP image of him closing his eyes at ANC conference in Durban in July 1991 “


Fake Sign Language Interpreter at Mandela’s Memorial

Sign language experts called out the interpreter who appeared at Nelson Mandela’s memorial as a “fake” who simply made up random signs.

Braam Jordaan is the South African board member of the World Deaf Federation, who stated, “The structure of his hand, facial expressions and the body movements did not follow what the speaker was saying.” Jordaan said the man was simply making up his own signs which had no meaning. “What happened at the memorial service is truly disgraceful thing to see – it should not happen at all. What happened today will be forever aligned with Nelson Mandela & Deaf Community, thanks to this fake interpreter.”

A deaf member of South Africa’s parliament, Wilma Newhoudt, tweeted, “the so called interpreter on the stage with Cde Cyril is not signing. He’s just making up. Get him out of TV sight”

The fake interpreter shared the stage with President Barack Obama. (Source: Getty)

The fake interpreter shared the stage with President Barack Obama. (Source: Getty)

While some have suggested that the man could have been signing in South Africa’s Zulu language, Professor Bencie Woll of the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre responded, “There’s no such thing as signing in Zulu. It’s like saying someone is speaking French in English. Sign languages are independent languages with their own grammar and structure. What he was doing looked extremely odd. There has been almost universal agreement among deaf South Africans they did not recognize it.”

Watch the “interpreter” in action in the video below:

Kanye West Compares Himself to Nelson Mandela?

In December 2013, social media lit up with a report that Kanye West compared himself to South African leader Nelson Mandela.

The article was satire.

The story was published by The Daily Currant, a satirical website, on December 6, 2013. The fictitious article “quotes” West in a radio interview in which he compares himself to Mandela:

“I am the next Nelson Mandela,” West responded. “I’m only 36 years old, and when I look at everything I’ve accomplished, it’s the only comparison that makes any sense. By the time I’m 95, I’m going to be a bigger hero than he ever was.”

The article which featured the fake Kanye West interview received heavy social media sharing by many who were unaware of the satirical nature of The Daily Currant.


While many readers are aware that The Daily Currant publishes humorous content, those unaware of its satirical nature shared the article with the belief that it was a real story.

The “About” page on The Daily Currant clearly states that the contents are works of fiction:

Q. Are your news stories real?

A. No. Our stories are purely fictional. However they are meant to address real-world issues through satire and often refer and link to real events happening in the world.

Kanye Responds

West responded to the fake story on Twitter with a series of Tweets:

Despite recent media reports, I’ve never said anything to dishonor or trivialize the life or transition of one of the most inspiring leaders

I’d like to address the false stories and noise that have been engineered by the media.

At a young age my mother taught me the importance of his work. Mandela sacrificed his life for the betterment of mankind.

Thank you, Mandela, for your life’s work and may it serve as a guiding light to illuminate our future.

The “interview” with Kanye West in which he compares himself to Nelson Mandela is satirical. West further debunked the story with a series of responses on Twitter.

Paris Hilton Responds to Fake Mandela Tweet

Paris Hilton posted a series of responses to a fake tweet that circulated in her name in which she allegedly confused Nelson Mandela with Martin Luther King, Jr.

The fake tweet

A tweet allegedly by Hilton acknowledged the passing of Nelson Mandela, but confused the South African leader with Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“RIP Nelson Mandela. Your ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was so inspiring. An amazing man.”


The tweet was heavily shared and reported as fact by some blogs. The problem, however, was that Hilton did not send the tweet at all. It should also be noted that what was shared was a “screen shot” of a tweet – and this screen shot was a doctored graphic.

Hilton’s real tweet

Paris did in fact send a tweet upon learning of Mandela’s death:

“Just landed & heard the sad new about Nelson Mandela. He was a true Hero & the world is a better place because of him. May he rest in peace.”


Hilton’s Response

After learning of the fake tweet circulating in her name, Paris issued a response, which read: “Whoever made that stupid fake tweet lacks respect to the loss the world is mourning right now. Same goes for all the blogs who ran with it.”


In responding to other Twitter users, Hilton tweeted additional thoughts, such as:

I’m so sick of people lying about me & using my name . Please get a life & stop talking about mine. It’s beyond. #URPathetic #GetYourOwnLife

Paris Hilton did not send a tweet which confused Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. The screen shot allegedly of this tweet was fake.


In the days immediately after Nelson Mandela’s death, a slew of fake and strange stories circulated online.

Additional Sources

  • Kanye West: ‘I Am The Next Nelson Mandela’ (The Daily Currant: December 6, 2013)
  • Interpreter at Mandela memorial branded ‘fake’ (Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today: December 11, 2013)
  • Sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ‘was a fake who made up his own hand gestures’ (Dan Newling: London Evening Standard: December 11, 2013)
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