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The Illuminati is a centuries-old conspiracy about a secret society of elites that controls the world.
A more recent theory baselessly says newsmakers photographed with black eyes have them as part of an initiation into the Illuminati.
The vast majority of the black eyes on people seen in a video making this claim have simple explanations, such as accidents or stage makeup.
It turns out the rich and famous are just like us — they, too, can be clumsy and unlucky.
Over the years, celebrities and politicians have been photographed with black eyes and other injuries. Although the black eyes usually have a simple story behind them, to some, they are a continuation of a centuries-old conspiracy theory about the Illuminati, a secret society.
A May 1 Facebook post shared a video with sticker text that read, "Illuminati Black Eye Club." In it, as dramatic music plays, 21 newsmakers are seen photographed with black eyes.
A caption with the post read, "The ‘Black Eye’ club, although not officially an organization, refers to a growing number of politicians, celebrities, business elites and heads of the state who have suddenly and mysteriously wound up with a black eye. I can't say I have ever been punched in the eye my entire life, and these are the 1%, just what are ultra rich folk doing getting their eyes fisted?"
Historically, the term "Illuminati" refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, a secret society promoting enlightenment in Germany that was disbanded in the 18th century. Conspiracy theorists today believe the Illuminati, a secret society of elites that controls the world, still exists.
The conspiracy got a pandemic twist in 2022, when one social media post baselessly claimed the black eyes were from COVID-19 vaccines.
The Instagram video shows 21 newsmakers sporting shiners, but it provides no information about how they got them. We scoured the internet to see why all these rich and famous people were being pummeled with punches. We were able to identify 20 of the people seen in the video.
Sorry to disappoint, but black eyes are not signals of membership in the secret Illuminati. The black eyes had far less interesting origins. In several cases, the shiners were just stage makeup. Others emerged after documented accidents. One happened after a former president choked on a pretzel and fainted.
Emmanuel Macron: We traced the image to a video shared Oct. 11, 2022 on X, formerly Twitter. It appears to be a doctored video from a June 2022 press conference the French president gave in Prague. He is wearing the same attire and standing before the same background, but has no black eye in the press conference video.
Prince Philip: He slipped and fell in a bathtub in 2004.
John Kerry: The former senator and current U.S. special envoy for climate fell in a pickup hockey game in 2012.
Harry Reid: The late Democratic senator from Nevada fell after a resistance band snapped while he was exercising in 2015.
Pope Francis: The pope banged into the popemobile’s glass in 2017 while greeting children in Colombia.
Former President George W. Bush: He fainted and fell off a couch after choking on a pretzel in 2002.
Boy George: The Culture Club singer suffered a black eye in 2012 after being assaulted outside a club, but the image seen in the Facebook video shows him with a fake black eye with makeup he wore to the Brit Awards in 2014. "I’m a fashion victim," he reportedly joked.
Jennifer Lopez: The photo is from a since-deleted 2016 Instagram post in which the singer and actress jokingly showed off makeup from her TV series, "Shades of Blue." In it, she plays a New York police detective."
Prince Andrew: The royal was seen with a black eye at a 2017 funeral, but the cause is not publicly known.
Joan Laporta: The president of FC Barcelona soccer club attended a 2022 match with a shiner. The cause is unclear but the club described it as a "domestic accident."
Adam Sandler: The actor in 2022 said he was injured in a "bed accident" involving a flying cellphone.
Singer David Bowie: Bowie sported a black eye and bandages in 2005 while performing at a Fashion Rocks show. According to Bowie’s website, the black eye and bandages disappeared later in the show, which video of the event shows. Pianist Mike Garson described it as "theatrics" in a comment on a 2016 Facebook post.
Perez Hilton: The celebrity gossip blogger got a shiner after he allegedly was punched — no joke — by a manager for the group the Black Eyed Peas in 2009. But the photo in the video is of Hilton in 2007 at a reality TV awards show, and the black eye appears the same as one seen in a Rolling Stone profile that year, which Hilton said in a 2019 Facebook post was fake. Hilton appeared to mock the conspiracy in a January 2023 YouTube video.
Actor Pierce Brosnan: His 2009 black eye was just makeup from a fight scene in the movie, "The Long Way Down."
Actor Robert Downey Jr.: The image from the video is from Downey’s role as Iron Man in the 2016 movie, "Captain America: Civil War." However, Downey was also seen with a black eye at an event in 2005. His publicist told the Los Angeles Times it was "from a kung fu workout."
Rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West: We can’t verify this photo of West, but Know Your Meme, a website that explains viral online memes, in a post about the "Black Eye Club" conspiracy, said the official explanation is he was punched in 2014 after leaving a nightclub. Regardless, Ye assured fans in 2015 that he wasn’t a member of the Illuminati.
Reese Witherspoon: The actress was seen with a black eye in 2011 days after she was hit by a car while crossing a street.
Ryan Gosling: The photo is of the actor greeting fans while wearing movie makeup while filming "Blue Valentine" in 2009.
A Facebook post claimed that photos of newsmakers show they are part of the "Black Eye Club," signaling membership in the Illuminati.
There’s no evidence that the Illuminati, which is rooted in a real secret society present more than two centuries ago, exists today. Because the newsmakers seen in the video had far more mundane explanations for their black eyes than an initiation ritual into a group for which there’s no evidence currently exists, we rate this Pants on Fire!
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Facebook post, May 1, 2023
PolitiFact, No, Anne Heche wasn’t murdered because she was working on a movie about Epstein, Aug. 16, 2022
PolitiFact, Biden was not sworn in on an Illuminati Bible, Jan. 25, 2021
Vox, 9 questions about the Illuminati you were too afraid to ask, Jan. 19, 2016
Daily Mail, Bizarre conspiracy theory suggests celebrities including the Pope and even ROYALS who have been snapped with black left eyes are in the secret ILLUMINATI society (and puts the bruises down to an 'initiation ritual'), July 20, 2018
Indy 100, The black eye club TikTok conspiracy explained, Nov. 5, 2022
X post, Oct. 11, 2022
BBC News, Duke sports black eye on visit, Oct. 28, 2004
CBS News, Why does John Kerry have two black eyes?, Jan. 23, 2012
Washington Post, The long, strange saga of Harry Reid and the exercise band, Oct. 10, 2015
The Associated Press, Pope Francis Explains How He Got A Black Eye, Sept. 12, 2017
Washington Post, Bush Faints While Eating A Pretzel, Jan. 14, 2022
Daily Mail, 'Looking pretty after being assaulted': Boy George shows off his black eye after nightclub altercation, April 4, 2012
Huffpost, Boy George's 2014 Brit Awards Makeup Looks Like Bruises (VIDEO, PHOTOS), Feb. 20, 2014
Elizabeth Hurley, Instagram post, Jan. 16, 2017
Entertainment Tonight, Jennifer Lopez Explains Why She Has a Black Eye: 'Work Can Be Rough', Dec. 1, 2016
As, A black-eyed Laporta appears in the Barcelona directors box, Aug. 28, 2022
HuffPost, Adam Sandler Says His Black Eye Was The Result Of A 'Bed Accident', June 7, 2022
Mike Garson, Facebook post, June 26, 2016
DavidBowie.com, Bowie steals the show at Fashion Rocks, Sept. 6, 2005
David Bowie News, David Bowie with Arcade Fire – Five Years at Fashion Rocks (2005), Jan. 24, 2021
Everockers, YouTube, David Bowie - Life on Mars? Fashion Rocks 2005, Dec. 22, 2018
San Diego Union-Tribune, Perez Hilton says he was punched by Peas’ manager, June 22, 2009
Getty Images, Perez Hilton arrives at the 2007 Fox Reality Channel Really Awards, Oct. 2, 2007
Perez Hilton, YouTube, Perez Hilton Has Panda Eyes! | The Black Eye Club, Jan. 10, 2023
Rolling Stone, Perez Hilton: Hollywood's Most Hated Blogger, Nov. 8, 2007
Perez Hilton, Facebook post, Nov. 7, 2019
Comicbook.com, How Robert Downey Jr. Was Made Younger In Captain America: Civil War, May 11, 2016
Los Angeles Times, ‘Kong’ star knows this role well , Dec. 9, 2005
Getty Images, UNICEF Snowflake Ball Honoring Leslie Moonves and Trudie Styler, Presented by Baccarat, Nov. 30, 2005
The Guardian, Richard Branson survives high-speed bicycle crash, Aug. 26, 2016
Richard Branson, X post, Aug. 26, 2016
Know Your Meme, The Black Eye Club, accessed Aug. 10, 2023
ET, Kanye West Insists He's Not Part of the Illuminati, April 20, 2015
New York Post, Reese Witherspoon sports a black eye after getting hit by car, Sept. 13, 2011
Just Jared, Ryan Gosling Gets A Black Eye, May 8, 2009
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