Using side-by-side photos of two men who bear some resemblance to each other, social media posts are spreading the false claim that a Washington, D.C., police officer who responded to the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 was really part of the rioting crowd. The photos actually show two different people.
Michael Fanone, a Washington, D.C., police officer who responded to the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, recently testified before the House select committee investigating the uprising.
He told the committee, “I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country.”
But posts have been circulating on social media with the false claim that Fanone participated in the riot rather than trying to stop it.
The posts show photos of Fanone next to photos of Kevin Seefried, a Delaware man who was charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds after news photos showed him carrying a Confederate battle flag through the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Both men are white with short hair and beards, so they look similar in some pictures.
One version of the false claim paired three sets of photos in which the men share a resemblance and included text at the top saying, “That’s suspicious.” That post has been shared with messages that make the claim even more explicit, saying, “So the Falone dude testifies that he was beaten, blah blah blah….ummmm….did he beat himself??? Photos on left are him at the 1/6/2021 Capitol staged event pretending to be a rioter! Add more facial hair and fake tears and viola’, he becomes a victim!”
Another version includes two photos, each showing the men with their eyebrows raised, with text that says, “SAME GUY!!” That version includes other falsehoods that we’ve already debunked, including the conspiracy theory that the rioters were “ANTIFA thugs dressed as Trump supporters.”
But the photos don’t show the same person. We’ll explain below what role each of the men played in the Jan. 6 uprising.
We’ll start with Seefried, who told FBI agents that he went to Washington, D.C., with his family for a rally to hear then-President Donald Trump speak on Jan. 6. He also told agents that he and his son, Hunter Seefried, marched to the Capitol and took part in the breach. Both of them are facing charges and both have pleaded not guilty.
Authorities arrested them after Hunter Seefried allegedly “bragged about being in the Capitol with his father on January 6, 2021” at work, prompting a colleague to tip off the FBI, according to court documents for the two Seefrieds.
A picture of Kevin Seefried walking through the Capitol with a Confederate battle flag is included in those documents, and he told agents that he had brought the flag from his home, where he usually hangs it outside.
As for Fanone, he was shown in photos taken by Reuters in a police uniform on Jan. 6 struggling against rioters.
Also, footage from his body-worn camera played during the House committee’s hearing (starting at the 1:55:00 mark) shows part of his interaction with the crowd that day. At one point, he appears to be on the ground, appealing for help by telling rioters that he has children.
According to his testimony to the committee, his appeal for help came after he was dragged into the crowd, where his badge, radio and ammunition were taken and he was beaten.
“During the assault, I thought about using my firearm on my attackers,” he told the committee in prepared remarks. “But I knew that if I did that, I would quickly be overwhelmed. And that, in their minds, it would provide them with the justification for killing me. So instead, I decided to appeal to any humanity they might have. I said as loud as I could manage, ‘I’ve got kids.’ Thankfully, some in the crowd stepped in and assisted me.”
Just over a week after the riot, Fanone was one of the first officers to describe his experience to the press. He spoke to CNN in an interview that showed he has a spiderweb tattooed on the right side of his neck, a marking that is not evident in pictures of Seefried.
So, Seefried told federal agents that he had entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has been on home detention since his arrest in January, while Fanone has spoken to the press and testified before a congressional committee about his experience combating the crowd. Fanone’s account is supported by footage from his body worn camera and news photos from Jan. 6.
U.S. Department of Justice. Capitol breach cases — Seefried, Kevin. Updated 4 Aug 2021.
U.S. v. Kevin Seefried. Statement of facts. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 13 Jan 2021.
Loeb, Saul. “A supporter of US President Donald Trump holds a Confederate flag outside the Senate Chamber during a protest after breaching the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 6, 2021.” AFP via Getty Images. 6 Jan 2021.
Farley, Robert. “Timeline of National Guard Deployment to Capitol.” FactCheck.org. Updated 24 May 2021.
Fichera, Angelo. “Bogus Antifa Claims Follow Capitol Riot.” FactCheck.org. Updated 24 May 2021.
Kiely, Eugene, et al. “Trump’s Falsehood-Filled ‘Save America’ Rally.” FactCheck.org. 6 Jan 2021.
U.S. Department of Justice. Capitol breach cases — Seefried, Hunter. Updated 4 Aug 2021.
U.S. v. Kevin Seefried. Order setting conditions of release. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 14 Jan 2021.
Stapleton, Shannon. “Pro-Trump protesters clash with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.” Reuters. 6 Jan 2021.
C-SPAN. “Capitol and D.C. Police Testify on January 6 Attack.” 27 Jul 2021.
Fanone, Michael. Testimony — The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol: ‘The Law Enforcement Experience on January 6th.’ 27 Jul 2021.
Morales, Mark. “‘Kill him with his own gun’: Police describe facing the mob at the Capitol.” CNN. 15 Jan 2021.