Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner perhaps destined to join President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, has a prolific social media presence. The politician regularly posts memes, photos and his reactions to daily news, at times critical of reporting and often without attribution. His "Miller for Texas" Facebook fan page has more than 330,000 likes.
On Nov. 27, 2016, Miller posted a fresh unattributed photo, this time of the muscled actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, shown wearing a T-shirt with a message Miller endorsed. Johnson’s shirt read: "We stand for the flag, we kneel for the fallen," along with this Miller caption: "Thanks to Dewayne Johnson AKA "The Rock" for standing up and defending our flag. There are a few good guys left in Hollywood and The Rock is one of them."
As of early December 2016, Miller’s Johnson post had drawn 3,500 reactions, 1,092 shares and 111 comments, all supportive, some praising Johnson for being a "stand up guy" who’s "not ashamed to admit" his love for country, or telling Johnson "he is The Rock for a reason."
Is photo real?
But when we saw the photo presentation, it looked to us like the unsourced photo’s shirt text had alignment problems. Also, the text on the T-shirt looked skewed and a smudge next to Johnson’s right arm looked as if there might have been additional removed text or imagery.
We knew too that Miller had previously posted a photo lacking accuracy. In March 2016, we found "Pants on Fire" what turned out to be Miller’s Facebook post of a fake image of Barack Obama holding a T-shirt with Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara’s face on it. Separately, the Texas Tribune in December 2016 compiled what its story described as 10 Miller posts of "demonstrably false, misleading or unsupported information."
A reverse image search
We started our review of the Johnson photo posted by Miller by conducting a reverse Google image search of it. Such a search enables anyone to pull up similar images across the web, demonstrating if other versions have been posted in digital spaces. If multiple versions of a photo exist online, a reverse Google image search can show some of the different iterations.
What came back from our search: The same T-shirt and Johnson pose with other slogans displayed, such as "Only elephants should wear ivory" or "Still here, still strong, Native Pride."
Additional results showed Johnson standing in a blank V-neck T-shirt, without any text. And among those, one photo came from the cover of the August 2013 issue of Essence Magazine; that photo shows Johnson wearing a similarly fitting navy blue V-neck T-shirt, without any text on the shirt. Then again, Johnson holds a different pose and presents a different facial expression.
Miller spokesman calls inquiry 'silly'
So, what gives?
We turned to a Miller campaign spokesman, Todd Smith, to find out where Miller picked up his Facebook-posted photo. Smith said he personally "had no clue" and said ours was a "silly, silly inquiry." He said the message of the T-shirt is what counts. When asked what his comment would be if the photo itself was fake, he said he hadn’t heard complaints from Johnson.
Johnson representative says Miller photo 'photoshopped'
Next, we endeavored to reach someone familiar with Johnson’s photo history. After calling Johnson’s public relations team, we heard from Britt Johnson with the Garcia Companies, who identifies herself as a social media spokesperson for Johnson.
Britt Johnson said by email: "While I can't recall where that photo was taken, I can say with confidence that the image/shirt" shared by Miller "was photoshopped."
Forensic photography expert
Separately, a web search led us to a forensic photography expert at the Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute at Syracuse University. By email, Cathryn Lahm responded that what she looked at after downloading a copy of the photo we’d shared from Miller’s Facebook post and viewing the photo in her software program, "the T-shirt The Rock is wearing is most likely ‘plain’ and the graphics were placed on the photo -- made to look -- like it was actually on his shirt," referring to the pro-flag message. She said the artist likely applied the graphic design onto an existing image, so Johnson would look like he was wearing the presented T-shirt.
"The original image was shot at some press event -- I think -- based on the ‘hot flash shadows’ as if he is walking the red carpet for some opening of a movie or an event," Lahm said. If she "had to go to court" about the authenticity of the Miller-posted photo, Lahm said, she would call the image a fake.
Miller posted a photo of "The Rock" wearing a T-shirt with a message calling for people to "stand for the flag and kneel for the fallen."
That image, we found, was a product of photo manipulation. It looks to us like Johnson actually posed in a plain shirt without any message.
We rate this photo post False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Photo, Sid Miller for Texas, Facebook post, Nov. 27, 2016
Truth-O-Meter article, "Sid Miller posts fake photo of Obama holding Che Guevara T-shirt," PolitiFact Texas, March 26, 2016
News article, "Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller calls Hillary Clinton C-word on Twitter, blames staffer," San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 1, 2016
Google image search results of Dwayne Johnson photo, accessed Nov. 30, 2016
Phone interview, Todd Smith, spokesman, Sid Miller campaign, Nov. 29, 2016
Blog post, "Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Graces the August Cover of ESSENCE," Essence, July 2, 2013
Email interview, Britt Johnson, director of new media, The Garcia Companies, Dec. 2, 2016
Email interview, Cathryn Lahm, forensic photography adjunct professor, Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute-Syracuse University, Nov. 30, 2016
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