CLAIM: A video shows a technical error causing a digital billboard near New York City’s Times Square to read “Glory to Urine” instead of “Glory to Ukraine” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in town to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No ad related to Ukraine has ever run on the billboard at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, and footage showing otherwise was fabricated, the company that operates the video display told The Associated Press. The footage also does not reflect the current appearance of that corner, so could not have been taken during Zelenskyy’s visit.
THE FACTS: Following Zelenskyy’s address to world leaders this week, many on social media shared a video and images of the fabricated ad, claiming that the message was live as the Ukrainian president arrived in the Big Apple.
The short video shows a bustling New York intersection near Times Square, at West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. Above a corner storefront, a large billboard displays the text, “Glory to Urine,” atop the colors of the Ukrainian flag, along with a photo of Zelenskyy.
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“There was a greeting message for Zelenski’s arrival in New York,” reads one tweet that shared the video. “But instead of Glory to Ukraine, the flag read Glory to urine . The company that owns the screen explained that the error was caused by an intelligent system that compared the yellow color with the word Ukraine and automatically corrected it to a similar consonant word – Urine.”
The tweet had received more than 11,000 likes and more than 5,700 shares as of Friday. A similar post on Instagram had received more than 6,000 likes.
But the ad is fake.
“No Ukraine ad has ever run in the space,” Erin Watkins, general counsel for Big Outdoor, the company that built and operates the billboard, told the AP. “It was entirely fabricated.”
The video spreading online includes a logo for Fox News Digital in the upper-right corner, making it appear as though the clip was aired by the outlet. However, Connor Smith, a Fox spokesperson, said the footage is not in any way connected to the company.
Additionally, while the origin of the fabricated footage is unclear, there are a number of indications that the original video was filmed in New York prior to Zelenskyy’s recent visit.
For example, a McDonald’s has opened in the building across from the billboard sporting prominent yellow decor and signage, but none of this can be seen in the same building in the video.
Photos of the corner uploaded to Google Maps and dated April and August 2023 also show a smaller video billboard under the one with the fake Ukraine ad has since been extended farther along the Eighth Avenue side of the building.
Plus, many people walking around the intersection are dressed in sweaters and light jackets, signaling that the video was likely filmed in cooler weather than New York is currently experiencing — the city has seen highs up to 82 degrees in the last two weeks.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.