Fact check: Altered image used to falsely claim CNN called Boulder suspect ‘morally white’

The claim: CNN reported the Boulder, Colorado, suspect was ‘Arab, but morally white’

Social media users are sharing a doctored image that purports to show a CNN graphic that called the Boulder, Colorado, shooting suspect “morally white.”


Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, 21, is accused in the March 22 shooting rampage that left 10 people dead at a King Soopers market in Boulder. 

The altered graphic appears below an image of CNN journalists Brooke Baldwin and Lucy Kafanov. 

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The meme, posted to Facebook March 24, has more than 1,000 shares. USA TODAY reached out to several accounts that posted the meme for comment.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the man suspected of killing 10 people at a Colorado supermarket, ordered to be held without bail pending an "mental illness" assessment. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Image apparently altered by satirical outlet

The same image appeared in a March 23 article by the satirical website The Babylon Bee. Since then, the altered image has spread across platforms without disclosure that it is doctored.

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The Babylon Bee did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

CNN confirms graphic is altered

Matt Dornic, head of strategic communications for CNN Worldwide, confirmed in an email to USA TODAY that the image was doctored.

“It’s yet another fake and offensive image circulating on social media. CNN never aired that chyron,” he wrote.  

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CNN’s actual report with Baldwin and Kafanov on the Boulder shooting demonstrates the graphic was altered. The March 23 report is available on YouTube. The image used in the meme has a timestamp of 1:01 PM MT. 

The graphic CNN displayed at that time read, “COLORADO SHOOTING SUSPECT BOOKED INTO JAIL TODAY.”

USA TODAY examined the full report and confirmed that the graphic seen in the meme was never displayed by CNN. 

Our rating: Altered

A widely shared image of a purported CNN report with a graphic that calls the Boulder, Colorado, suspect “morally white” is ALTERED. The original CNN report and a company spokesperson confirm that the image has been doctored. 

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, March 23, “Boulder shooting live updates: 21-year-old charged in rampage that ‘monstrously struck down’ 10 at supermarket; family says he’s antisocial”
  • The Babylon Bee, March 23, “Media Now Claims Shooter Was Factually Arab, But Morally White”
  • USA TODAY, March 23, email with Matt Dornic, head of strategic communications, CNN Worldwide
  • YouTube, CNN, March 23, “What we know about Boulder shooting suspect”

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook. 

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