Did Ron DeSantis write an embarrassing quote in his high school yearbook?

By July 25, 2023 July 26th, 2023 International Politics

We came across the following post from 11 July on Reddit, where it had gained over 2,500 upvotes:

The post claims that the Republican US presidential hopeful has a ‘skeleton… in (his) closet’, referring to an image that appears to be a high school yearbook photo of the Florida governor. Below the image is quote attributed to him that reads ‘My Mount Rushmore is Jesus, Sir-Mixes-a-Lot, and Nintendo 64’.

Mount Rushmore is a national memorial in the United States that features sculptures of four former US presidents carved into the granite face of the mountain. The quote’s reference to Mount Rushmore appears to suggest deep admiration and reverence for the other figures and items listed in the post – Jesus, Sir-Mixes-a-Lot and the Nintendo 64. ‘Sir-Mixes-a Lot’ appears to be a misspelt reference to ‘Sir-Mix-a-Lot’, the rapper who wrote the 1992 hit song ‘Baby Got Back’.

When we did a scan across social media, we found that the image had been posted across different platforms. It had appeared on Twitter, where it had over 32,900 views, and Instagram, where it had gained over 1,200 likes. On each platform, most commenters appeared to be critical of DeSantis, his appearance in high school and the awkward phrasing of his yearbook quote, and they appeared to have assumed that the quote was genuine.

Don’t Quote Me on That

We attempted to determine the origin of the image by running a keyword search of the yearbook image and quote. In doing so, we found that the image had been determined to have been altered by several media organisations and factcheckers.

AP News pointed out that the original, unedited yearbook image of DeSantis had been posted on Reddit in April. Though DeSantis’ office and campaign had not returned requests for comment, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Schools district where DeSantis had graduated confirmed to AP News and the factcheck organisation Lead Stories separately that ‘this is a photo from the Dunedin High School yearbook; however, there is no quote within the yearbook photo beneath Governor DeSantis’ photo nor any other student within the yearbook’.

While researching the post, we found previous instances of old images of DeSantis that had been doctored. Some of these seem likely to have been altered for comic effect, such as an edited image of the yearbook photo that is captioned ‘most likely to have his feelings hurt by a cartoon mouse’.

This image emerged after DeSantis withdrew Disney’s special governing status for its Florida theme parks. This was after the company – whose famous mascot is Mickey Mouse – criticised new laws championed by DeSantis that restricted school discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Another edited image references a news report in which unidentified sources revealed that DeSantis ate chocolate pudding with three fingers during a flight. The campaign of Donald Trump, DeSantis’ primary rival for the Republican presidential nomination, produced a campaign ad in response titled ‘Pudding Fingers’.

As the race for the nomination between DeSantis and Trump heats up, it is possible that such allegations and content continue to perpetuate, especially if such stories are circulated further by the candidates’ campaigns.

Even though the high school image of DeSantis is genuine, the quotes attributed to DeSantis under his yearbook images are therefore certainly false. They are likely to have emerged as a disinformation campaign or content created for comic effect that has since spread through misinformed social media users.

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