Donald Trump supporters were appalled by an image that surfaced on right-wing social media this weekend of a 15-year-old girl who was apparently beaten savagely by a "raging Hispanic anti-Trump mob" outside a political rally in San José, California.
To make matters worse, police reportedly stood by and did nothing, as we learned from Trump's Twitter twerps.
The horrific image, which shows a bruised and battered young woman sporting an ugly shiner over her right eye, a busted lower lip, and a bloody gash on her forehead, was shared on the Facebook page of RightAlerts.com, a right-wing media aggregator that has nearly 1.3 million followers. But what makes the image truly shocking is that it's a total fake—as internet myth-busting website Snopes proved almost immediately.
Although real people suffered real injuries during the June 2 Trump rally in San José, Mexican telenovela actress Luisa Rubino, the woman in the photo, was not one of them. At the time of her alleged beatdown, Rubino was 2,000 miles away safely enjoying a quiet meal with her family in Mexico City. But the dissemination of her fake photo by Trumpistas shows that the truth should never get in the way of a good narrative, even when real facts would have substituted just as effectively for manufactured lies.
"It's totally false—the photo was taken out of context, inappropriately," Rubino, 17, told me in a phone conversation from Mexico. "The caption says I was beaten up by anti-Trump people, as if I were a Trump supporter. And that's not the case because I'm Mexican and I support the Latino community."
The photo in question is the product of a rather convincing make-up job on the set of Mexican daytime soap opera La Rosa de Guadalupe, which airs on Televisa and Univision, Fusion's parent company. Rubino recently starred in an episode named "No Means No," where she plays the role of Iris, a heartbroken teenager who tries to forget about her ex by going out to a club, only to get picked up by two guys who then sexually assault her back at their house.
Rubino says it was a challenging and powerful role that put her acting skills to use to denounce violence against women. She had no idea that the image would be appropriated by Trumpistas to denounce violence against themselves.
Though Snopes denounced the image before it went viral, it still got a bit of a ride on social media over the weekend and into Monday. The origin of the fake photo meme is unknown, but a reverse image search seems to point at an oddball Canadian animal rights activist who has an occasional penchant for right-wing tweeting. Others who shared the image later deleted their tweets, or — in the case of RightAlerts—altered the story enough to make its readers think they had been talking about some other woman, even though they were stuck with their telltale anchor image on Facebook.
Rubino is taking the situation in stride, but bristles at the idea that her image is being used by "Trump fanatics" to support the presumptive Republican candidate's anti-Mexican blather.
"I am not in agreement with Donald Trump at all," she told me. "I support the Mexican people and Latinos, and [Trump] doesn't seem to be a man who is prepared to take control of one of the greatest powers in the world."
But Team Trump can rest assured. This story has a happy ending. The fake Mexican cops caught the fake bad guys at the end of the novela.