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Fact Check: The false story that Leonardo DiCaprio donated $ 10 million to Ukraine spread all over the world

According to articles and social media posts, DiCaprio is associated with Ukraine because his deceased maternal grandmother was born in the city of Odessa, Ukraine. Some articles claim that DiCaprio’s $ 10 million donation was announced by an organization called the International Visegrad Foundation.

The non-existent $ 10 million donation story is a case study of how bad information bubbling from online fringes to mainstream media outlets.

Stories with inadequate sources

On Saturday, an ambiguous website called GSA News, which focused on news about Guyana’s South American countries, claimed that “sources within Ukraine” Dicaprio “sent US $ 10 million to the Ukrainian government.” I posted a short article to do. DiCaprio added, “I have Ukrainian roots through his maternal grandmother.”

Patrick Carpen, the founder of GSA News, stood behind the article Wednesday afternoon after being informed that sources close to DiCaprio had told CNN that the content was incorrect. “”

However, on Wednesday night, Carpen called CNN and said he was “deeply apologizing” for the false story, “had no bad intentions to publish the article,” and was planning to post a withdrawal. ..

Carpen explained that the main source of DiCaprio’s estimated $ 10 million donation was a Facebook post from a Ukrainian woman whose post about the war with Russia was largely accurate.

Guyana’s website has a small readership, so he published a recurring article about DiCaprio and thought he could quietly remove the article within a few days if it turned out to be wrong, Carpen said. rice field.

“I thought it wouldn’t have many consequences if it was wrong,” he said.

Instead, he said the story was “snowballing everyone’s news publications, with millions of followers in it, and that kind of thing worries me … people just All you have to do is take something at face value and publish it, “he said with surprise and disappointment. “

However, he admitted that he himself made a face value claim from a Facebook poster.

On Twitter, then on another ambiguous website, then on the major outlets

Whether for GSA news articles, Ukrainian posts on Facebook, or for any other reason, the story about DiCaprio began to spread more widely on Sunday.

Twitter account called Visegrad 24Leonardo DiCaprio gives Ukraine US $ 10 million, without quoting sources, tweeting the latest news focusing on the countries of the Visegrad Group in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to more than 196,000 followers. I donated. ” His maternal grandmother was from Odessa, Ukraine! ”
The claim that DiCaprio’s maternal grandmother, Helen Inden Birkenstock, was born in Ukraine in general, or that Odessa in particular has spread online for years, has never been tied to a solid source. Inden Birkenstock died in 2008 in Germany, where she lived. She revealed where she was actually born on Thursday, and sources close to DiCaprio didn’t say.

Over 10,000 retweets

Anyway, Visegrád24’s tweets have been retweeted more than 10,000 times. It was deleted Wednesday afternoon after CNN notified the account that the story about the $ 10 million donation was incorrect.

“We seem to have been the prey to fake stories ourselves. We’re doing our best!” The account representative said in a message to CNN on Wednesday.

So where did the account get that information? “I saw stories tweeted by a few small news accounts, citing anonymous sources,” said the representative.

Major outlets take up the story

The story really started on Monday, the day after the Visegrad 24 tweet was posted.

According to another ambiguous website, Poland News, Dicaprio “allocated US $ 10 million to support Ukraine and had no plans to announce it worldwide,” but Sunday’s donation was Announced by the International Visegrad Foundation, an international donor organization established by the governments of the Visegrad Group countries.

Again, it’s not true. Lucia Bekova, the fund’s public relations manager, said in an email sent to CNN on Wednesday that the fund did not make such an announcement.

Polish news may have confused the International Visegrad Foundation with the Visegrad 24 Twitter account. By Wednesday, the Polish news article was edited to remove references to the International Visegrad Foundation. Polish news representative Artur Salamonczyk said in an email Wednesday that he was “happy to remove the content” if CNN was aware that DiCaprio did not donate $ 10 million. ..

By Thursday, it had deleted the article and published another article stating that the report on the $ 10 million donation from DiCaprio was wrong, but by then the horse had been out of the barn.

News media one after another The press cited Polish news as the main source behind their story that Dicaprio made a $ 10 million donation to Ukraine.

The news article about the $ 10 million donation was, among other things, England’s Independent (eventually revised that article). Daily mail (Deleted the story), Hindustan Times of India (the story remained online as of Friday), Novinky of the Czech Republic (eventually unveiled a new story uncovering the original story), France’s Euronews (finally modified the story), and in the United States, entertainment site ET Online (removes DiCaprio from the celebrity Ukrainian donation story) and conservative political sites The Washington Examiner and The Daily Caller ( Both corrected the story).
CNN began investigating an estimated $ 10 million in donations after Jane Litvinenko, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Media, Politics, and Public Policy Schorenstein Center. Questions raised About the accuracy of the viral story on Twitter on Wednesday.

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