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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke November 12, 2019

No, this isn’t a photo of the Ukraine whistleblower

Remember that picture of then-President Barack Obama’s White House staff "crying the day after Trump won the election?" That’s what a recent Facebook post asks before claiming to identify one of the men in the photo as "the alleged Ukraine call whistleblower."

This post, published on Nov. 5, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

The photo is real, though we wouldn’t describe the people in it as crying. AFP photographer Nicholas Kamm took it on Nov. 9, 2016, as U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House communications director Jen Psaki, among others, listened to Obama address the nation after Donald Trump’s election.

The Facebook post points to the man to the far right of the photo and describes him as the whistleblower who alleged Trump is soliciting foreign interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election.    

The whistleblower has legal protection from retaliation and U.S. officials have kept that person’s name confidential. Most news organizations have also withheld the name, though, as the Washington Post reports, the name of a CIA officer has appeared widely on social media as posts claim to out him as the whistleblower.   

But it’s not R. David Edelman, the man in this photo. On Nov. 7, he tweeted another image claiming that he’s the whistleblower. "Here’s a picture of the ‘whistleblower’ see the ‘NERD’ in the picture...his face is circled," it said. 

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"FAKE NEWS," Edelman tweeted, " the ‘NERD’ circled below is the whistleblower. TRUE (just not news): the ‘NERD’ circled below is...this nerd. Me. Left government in 2017. Sorry to disappoint, y’all." 

"This photo was on the cover of @washingtonpost, people," he added. "Seriously, even conspiracy theories deserve a quick google fact check."

Before he left government in January 2017, Edelman was a special assistant to the president for economic and technology policy, leading policy development and coordination on issues related to the digital economy, according to a White House bio. He also served as senior advisor for internet, innovation and privacy at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and he was the first director of international cyber policy at the White House National Security Council. 

He’s included on the 2016 annual report to Congress listing White House office personnel and their pay. But his name doesn’t appear on the June 30, 2017, report

That’s because on March 3, 2017, MIT announced that Edelman was joining its internet policy research initiative. As director of the school’s project on technology, the economy and national security, he leads the initiative’s AI policy research. 

But the whistleblower complaint that led to the U.S. House impeachment inquiry details recent government work, describing "official duties," "official interagency business" and colleagues — U.S. officials, not academics. 

We rate this Facebook post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Nov. 5, 2019

Getty Images, Photo of White House staffers listening to then-President Barack Obama address the nation, Nov. 9, 2016

Whistleblower complaint, Aug. 12, 2019

R. David Edelman tweet, Nov. 7, 2019

The White House, R. David Edleman author bio, visited Nov. 12, 2019

The White House, 2016 annual report to Congress on White House staff

The White House, Annual report to Congress on White House office personnel, June 30, 2017

MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative, R. David Edelman joins MIT’s internet policy research initiative, March, 8, 2017

MIT, R. David Edelman bio, visited Nov. 12, 2019

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No, this isn’t a photo of the Ukraine whistleblower

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