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Fact check: Photos show Pompeo on state visit to India, not evidence of debunked #ItalyGate conspiracy

Flagged by Facebook in its efforts to combat online information, posts circulating in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration claim that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Italy for the alleged arrest of Italian President Sergio Mattarella. These claims are false and part of a baseless conspiracy theory alleging that Italy interfered in the 2020 U.S. presidential election to secure Biden’s victory. The images in these posts show Pompeo on a state visit to New Delhi, India in October 2020 with U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here and here .

The #ItalyGate and #ItalyDidIt claims, reviewed thoroughly and debunked by Reuters in a previous fact check visible here , are part of a conspiracy theory intended to sow doubt in the U.S. electoral system and bolster allegations by Trump and his allies that the election was rigged.

The posts alleging that the Italian president has been arrested claim to show an image of Pompeo walking alongside police officers in Italy as a man with his hands behind his back trails behind him (here). The caption on one post reads, “Italian President arrested for his part in the interference in our elections. He was working with Obama to sabotage Trump's reelection” (here).

The image does not show the secretary of state in Italy, but rather in New Delhi, India on Oct. 27, 2020. That day, Pompeo tweeted a series of images from the same scene with the caption, “A solemn moment laying a wreath at the National War Memorial in New Delhi with U.S. Secretary of Defense @EsperDoD. We will never forget the brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of the world’s largest democracy” (here).

Reuters images of Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper arriving to lay wreaths at the National War Memorial in New Delhi can be found here , here and here .

On Jan. 7, 2021, Secretary Pompeo tweeted the exact image shared in the social media posts here with the caption, “Putting #AmericaFirst means helping our friends and partners defend themselves. U.S.-India defense trade grew from near zero in 2008 to > $20B today, including sales of C-17 transports, Apache and MH-60R helicopters, and P-8 maritime patrol aircraft.”

The man in the background, who stands to the left of Pompeo wearing a black mask, a blue suit, an orange tie, brown shoes and glasses, is not the Italian president, as the posts claim, but Kenneth Juster, the U.S. ambassador to India since 2017 (here). In a video available here , Juster can be seen giving his farewell speech on Jan. 5.

Reuters images taken on Oct. 26, 2020, the day before Pompeo, Esper, Juster and others attended the wreath laying ceremony, show Pompeo and Juster greeting each other at an airport in New Delhi, India ( here , here ).

The image does not show Italian President Sergio Mattarella (seen here ), whose purported arrest has not been reported by any credible Italian or international media sources.

On Jan. 13, 2021, President Mattarella attended a political meeting in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, as reported here , here and here .

According to Secretary Pompeo’s public schedule, he was in Washington, D.C. to attend Department of State meetings and briefings every day between Jan. 4 and Jan. 8 ( here , here , here , here , here ).

On Monday, Jan. 11, the secretary of state was still in the U.S. capital for meetings with the Department of State (here), followed by an event at the National Press Club the following day (here). The secretary had no public appointments on Jan. 13 and 14 ( here , here ).

Some of the posts also include an alleged affidavit (here) that is addressed in Reuters’ fact check on #ItalyGate here .

VERDICT

False. Posts claiming to show U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Italy for the alleged arrest of Italian President Sergio Mattarella show Pompeo with U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster during a state visit to New Delhi, India in October 2020. False claims that Mattarella has been arrested are part of a baseless conspiracy theory known as #ItalyGate.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here  . 

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