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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone February 28, 2022

Action star Steven Seagal is a friend of Putin, but not a soldier in Ukraine

If Your Time is short

  • Podcaster Joe Rogan posted a fake CNN story that said action star Steven Seagal was spotted among Russian special forces in Ukraine. He later deleted the post, he said, because it was a “parody.”

  • CNN confirmed that the post purporting to be from its Twitter account was fake.

  • Seagal does have a friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who granted him citizenship in 2016, and Seagal was once banned from Ukraine as a “national security threat.”

Podcast host Joe Rogan has come under fire in recent months for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 on his popular Spotify podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience."

On Feb. 28, Rogan shared, then deleted, a fake story on Facebook and Instagram that said actor Steven Seagal was spotted among Russian special forces outside an airport in Kyiv after that country invaded Ukraine.

"If I had to guess the plot of this (expletive) up movie we’re living through I would say we are about 14 hours from the arrival of the aliens," Rogan wrote in his since-deleted Facebook post. 

The post showed a screenshot of a supposed CNN tweet with a photo of the action star in military gear with a gun and several soldiers behind him. The caption said that "Intelligence agencies around the world have spotted American actor Steven Seagal among Russian special forces positioned around the outskirts of Gostemel airfield near Kyiv captured by Russian airborne troops."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. Other people shared similar images across social media. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

But the CNN story and tweet was fabricated, a spokesperson for the news network told PolitiFact. The image is a screenshot of Seagal in the movie, "Cartels," Newsweek fact-checkers reported.

Rogan, after several fact-checkers debunked the post, took down the post and followed up with another post explaining that he took it down because "it was parody, which isn’t surprising, but honestly it wouldn’t be surprising if it was true either."

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He shared a screenshot of a 2017 Washington Post headline, which read, "Amid Putin ‘bromance,’ Steven Seagal banned from Ukraine as national security threat." That article said that Seagal was banned for five years because he "committed socially dangerous actions ... that contradict the interests of maintaining Ukraine's security."

Seagal does indeed have ties to Russia. The 69-year-old actor was born in Michigan, but was granted Russian citizenship in 2016. In June 2021 he joined "A Just Russia For Truth," a pro-Kremlin political party, CNN reported.

Seagal spoke about the current conflict in Ukraine with Fox News Digital on Feb. 28, saying, without evidence, that he believes "an outside entity" is "spending huge sums of money on propaganda to provoke the two countries to be at odds with each other."

In 2018, the actor was appointed as a "special representative on U.S.-Russia humanitarian ties," according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In May 2021, Reuters reported that Seagal traveled to Venezuela as a representative of Russia to give a samurai sword to President Nicolas Maduro, who called Seagal his "brother" and said they "talked about mutual friends like the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, because of his interest in protecting forests." 

In response to criticism about Rogan giving a platform to guests who shared misinformation about COVID-19, Spotify began adding a content advisory to any content about the pandemic, sending listeners to a page it said would provide facts and information from trusted sources. Spotify did not return a request for comment for this story.

Our ruling

Rogan shared, then deleted, a screenshot of a fake CNN story that said actor Steven Seagal was spotted among Russian special forces in Ukraine.

CNN said the story was fabricated, and Rogan took down the post, saying that it was "parody" but that "it wouldn’t be surprising if it was true either."

Alas, it was not true. We rate this claim False.

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Action star Steven Seagal is a friend of Putin, but not a soldier in Ukraine

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