Rockefeller Center is celebrating Pride Month with a display of rainbow flags to show it is “an inclusive and diverse space for all.” But an Instagram post uses an image of Pride flags at Rockefeller Center while falsely claiming it shows the “United Nations replaces all 193 country flags with LGBT flags.” The U.N. never changes its flag display, a spokesperson said.
Many companies and institutions observe Pride Month each June to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, the rainbow displays and expressions of inclusivity have met with backlash from some conservatives.
Target, for example, removed merchandise from its “Pride Collection” following protests and threats from some customers, citing concern for employee safety. Even the popular Cracker Barrel restaurant chain faced a boycott for acknowledging Pride Month.
Social media posts have fanned the flames by spreading misinformation about support for Pride Month. As we wrote, an artist’s animated video showing a rainbow appearing to encircle the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was making the rounds with the false claim that the rainbow was physically attached to the historic monument and “defaced” it.
A June 8 Instagram post misrepresents a different Pride Month display. The text on the post says, “The United Nations replaces all 193 country flags with LGBT flags.” It received more than 115,000 likes.
The post from Clarkson Lawson, who has 126,000 Instagram followers, uses a photo with that text as a backdrop of a video in which he expresses his view that celebrating Pride Month is akin to “special treatment” for the LGBTQ+ community. “Nobody in their right mind wants to be completely inundated with Pride flags for the month of June,” he says in the video.
But the U.N. did not take down the flags of its member nations for Pride Month.
“The only flags that fly in front of the U.N. are the 193 member states’ flags and [those of] the two observers, and the U.N. flag,” Shirin Yaseen, associate spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, told us in a phone interview. Those flags are always displayed and are never replaced for occasions such as Pride Month, Yaseen said.
UNAIDS, the U.N. agency charged with ending the AIDS epidemic, did issue a statement affirming “solidarity” with LGBTQ+ communities.
“Pride Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the resilience, diversity, and achievements” of those communities, while serving as “a reminder of the important collective commitment to human rights, equality, and the urgent need to decriminalize same-sex relationships,” the agency said.
In addition, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a June 1 tweet, “Let’s celebrate the richness & diversity of the LGBTIQ+ community and honour their immense contributions to the human rights movement.”
Rather than at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, the photo shown in the Instagram post was actually taken at the plaza of Rockefeller Center, possibly in 2019.
On its website, Rockefeller Center explains the celebration of Pride Month has become a “staple” at its space in Manhattan, “playing a key role in ensuring there’s an inclusive and diverse space for all in the heart of Midtown.”
“Throughout the month of June, our campus will be awash in signs and symbols of Pride with rainbow pathways, hundreds of Pride flags surrounding The Rink, and vinyl decals decorating its spaces,” the center’s website says.
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. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Cavale, Siddharth. “Target removing some LGBTQ merchandise following customer backlash.” Reuters. 24 May 2023.
Peiser, Jaclyn. “Target stores see more bomb threats over Pride merchandise.” Washington Post. 12 Jun 2023.
Brooks, Khristopher J. “Bud Light loses its footing as America’s best-selling beer.” CBS News Moneywatch. 9 Jun 2023.
Brooks, Khristopher J. “Cracker Barrel faces boycott call for celebrating Pride Month.” 9 Jun 2023.
Jones, Brea. “Posts Misrepresent Virtual Rainbow on Arc de Triomphe for Pride Month.” FactCheck.org. 12 Jun 2023.
Yaseen, Shirin. Associate spokesperson for Executive Office of the Secretary-General, United Nations. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 13 Jun 2023.
United Nations. “UNAIDS celebrates Pride Month and calls for decriminalization of same-sex relationships.” Press release. 1 Jun 2023.
Rockefeller Center. “Pride at Rockefeller Center 2023.” Website.
Wikimedia Commons. Photo captioned, “Regenbogenflaggen an der Rockefeller Plaza, New York City, anlässlich des fünfzigjährigen Jubiläums der Stonewall Riots 2019.”