Fact check: Image claiming to show young Matt Gaetz with a mullet is not authentic

The claim: Image shows Matt Gaetz as a senior in high school 

A photo shared widely on social media purports to show Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz’s senior portrait in high school.

The claim comes as Gaetz faces  a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations of misconduct, including illegal drug use and sexual misconduct. The congressman has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. 

“Any time Matt Gaetz tweets just respond with his senior photo,” one user wrote in an April 14 Facebook post of the image, which purportedly shows Gaetz with a blond mullet and wearing a black tuxedo. 

Similar versions of the photo and text have been posted by users across Facebook, with many sharing a screenshot of a tweet from the account FakeJoeBiden. 

The original tweet from FakeJoeBiden has more than 21,900 likes and almost 5,000 retweets// as of April 19.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook users for comment.

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Photo is altered

The image in question is not authentic, and Gaetz’s face has been digitally altered on to another man’s person’s photo. 

Harlan Hill, a spokesperson for Gaetz, told USA TODAY via email that the image is as fake “as the allegations against Rep. Gaetz — that is to say 100% made up.” 

“And while this doctored photo is at least funny, the numerous false allegations about the Congressman are not,” Hill said. 

The earliest version of the original photo we identifiedappears on a 2011 Reddit thread with the caption, “Business on the top, party on the sides.” The Reddit user also included a link to the photo on Flickr. 

A comparison of the original photo on Reddit next to the altered photo further confirms that the image is not Gaetz. 

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The mullet photo has previously appeared on various website including a December 2017 article from The Sun, a slideshow from Shareably and blog pages. The sites make no mention Gaetz in the image’s caption. 

A photo of Gaetz on the Northwest Florida Daily News website from 2000, the year he graduated from Niceville High School, shows he did not have blond hair and a mullet. 

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Our rating: Altered

An image claiming to show Gaetzas a senior in high school is ALTERED based on our research. The image is doctored and the original version of the photo shows an anonymous person, not Gaetz. Photos of Gaetz from high school do not resemble the image, and a Gaetz representative confirmed the image is fake. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • Facebook post, April 14
  • Reddit, 2011, Business on the top, party on the sides
  • Flickr, accessed April 17, yearbook image
  • The Sun, December 3, 2017, MULLET OVER This gallery of classic cuts from the 70s and 80s is hair-raising
  • Shareably, accessed April 18, Rock gone wrong
  • Cheezeburger.com, accessed April 18, 30 Horrible Haircuts From People Who Should Have Given Their Barber Better Directions
  • The Associated Press, April 15, 2021, ‘Senior photo’ of Matt Gaetz is fabricated
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, accessed April 18, GAETZ, Matthew L., II 1982
  • nwfdailynews.com, Aug. 14, 2018, PHOTOS: Congressman Matt Gaetz through the years
  • Harlan Hill, April 18, email correspondence

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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