Fact Check: Bogus Claim That Nazi Flag Near U-Haul Was ‘Photoshopped’

Shocking footage shared online this week showing a U-Haul van repeatedly slamming into gates near the White House was accompanied by claims that the driver might have had Nazi sympathies.

Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, was charged with multiple crimes, including threatening to kill President Joe Biden, after ramming the vehicle into barriers. Kandula was said to have told agents during questioning that “Nazis have a great history.”

Despite these and other claims, some suggested that a Swastika flag photographed outside the vehicle had been “Photoshopped.”

U-Haul crash
Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, has been charged with multiple crimes, including threatening to kill President Joe Biden, after allegedly ramming a U-Haul truck into barriers outside the White House on Monday night.
Benjamin Berger via Storyful

The Claim

A tweet posted by user @leslibless, on May 23, 2023, viewed 16,000 times, said: “Notice how the FBI made sure to photoshop the “white supremacist’s” Nazi flag the same way they meticulously made sure to photoshop Trumps “classified” docs on his office floor?”

The photo includes a picture of the flag outside the U-Haul.

The Facts

Apart from claims that Kandula had far-right sympathies, according to conversations he had with agents following the incident, there are multiple photos of the flag and a video that shows it being held up.

An image from Reuters, used by multiple news outlets such as The Independent and NBC News, showed the flag outside of the vehicle, while a widely shared video shows an investigator inspecting the U-Haul before approaching the flag, rolling it up and placing it elsewhere.

There is no evidence that either the photo or the screengrab taken from the video was altered in any way prior to publication, while the video clearly shows that the flag was outside the van.

Court documents allege that Kandula got out of the truck and went into the back where he pulled a red and white flag with a Nazi swastika in the center.

Newsweek reached out to the White House via email for comment. When asked to confirm media reports that Kandula was not previously on any FBI watch lists, a spokesperson for the bureau told Newsweek that the agency could not comment.

When asked about the flag he showed at the scene, Kandula confirmed it was a swastika, and said he bought it online because “Nazis have a great history.”

When asked what he favored about Nazis, he said that he admires their “authoritarian nature, eugenics and their one world order.” In response to being asked if he looks up to any leaders, he said: “Hitler, because he was a strong leader.”

The doubt surrounding the incident echoes skepticism that right-wing commentators recently attempted to foment following a mass shooting in Allen, Texas.

Twitter founder Elon Musk leaned into this conspiratorial thinking, engaging with right-wing accounts that suggested the notion that the shooter was a white supremacist was a “psy-op”.

Kandula was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president, vice president or family member, destruction of federal property, and trespassing. The affidavit also accuses Kandula of causing more than $1,000 in damage to the barriers outside the White House. He is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday.

The Ruling



This claim is by the preponderance of clear evidence false. The flag was not only seen in multiple photographs but in footage captured at the scene that also shows an investigator interacting with the object.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Check team

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