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Viral Photos Don’t Show Impeachment Expert

Quick Take

Widely shared posts on Facebook purport to show photos of law professor Pamela Karlan, who testified in support of President Donald Trump’s impeachment, dressed in pro-feminist attire at two different events. Karlan told us she did not attend either event.

Full Story 

Posts circulating on social media make the unsubstantiated claim that two different photos of women — one wearing a pink Pussyhat, the other dressed as “vagina lady” at a 2007 race — show one of the four legal experts who recently testified in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

The claims center on Pamela Karlan, a Stanford University professor of public interest law and co-director of Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, who provided testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 4. She was one of three experts called to testify by Democrats.

But there’s no evidence to support the assertion that Karlan is either of the women in the pictures shared by Facebook users.

One of the photos shows a demonstrator who is wearing a pink Pussyhat. Reverse image searches eventually led us to the original photo, taken by Agence France-Presse photographer Robyn Beck and available through Getty Images. It was taken in Washington, D.C., during the first Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

The picture appeared in many news stories in 2017 and none identified the woman as Karlan.

Likewise, we couldn’t find evidence that the woman in the other viral photo — who is wearing a costume and carrying a “vagina lady” sign — is Karlan.

We traced that picture to a Flickr account that posted the photo in 2007. The photo appeared in an album of pictures from “Bay to Breakers,” a footrace held annually in San Francisco. The caption on the picture was simply, “One of two ladies in vagina costumes.”

Karlan told us that she isn’t in either photo. “I was at none of those events,” she said in an email to FactCheck.org.

The viral claims followed testimony in which Karlan argued that Trump’s actions “constituted an abuse of power” — an alleged offense that now serves as the basis for one of the articles of impeachment announced Dec. 10.

“If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account,” Karlan said in her opening remarks at the Dec. 4 hearing.

During Karlan’s testimony, some Republicans sought to raise questions about Karlan’s political motives. Rep. Matt Gaetz, for example, asked Karlan about her campaign contributions to Democrats, including recently to 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which she acknowledged.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.


The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” U.S. House Judiciary Committee. 4 Dec 2019.

Individual Contributions | Pamela Karlan.” U.S. Federal Election Commission. Accessed 10 Dec 2019.

Karlan, Pamela. Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law, Stanford Law School. Email to FactCheck.org. 10 Dec 2019.

Protesters march in Washington, DC, during the Womens March on January 21, 2017.” Getty Images. 21 Jan 2017.