Old man in viral social media posts is a US WWII veteran, not a Covid-recovered Italian

Sanjog Shiwakoti / June 4, 2021

These social media posts have wrongly used US WWII veteran Bill Moore’s image to support a possibly apocryphal Italian story, which appears to promote tree planting.

Over the past few weeks, a social media post containing a purported anecdote of a so-called 93-year-old Italian person who allegedly recovered from Covid-19, has gone viral. The post urges everyone to be grateful to nature and plant a tree. Some of these posts contain only text while others also contain a photo of an old man in sad mood.

The post reads as follows:

“This 93-year-old woman [sic] recovered from Covid-19 at a hospital and when the hospital asked him to pay the bill, which included the ventilator charge for a day, he started crying. When then the doctors comforted him and said they would waive the ventilator charge, the old man said, ‘I am crying not because I cannot pay the charge. I can pay all the charges. But for 93 years, when I breathed in the air given by nature, I did not pay even a rupee. Today I am paying 500 euros for breathing with ventilator for a day. What a huge debt I owe to nature. I cried thinking how would I pay it.’ So, all of you who return home after defeating Covid-19, please plant a tree anywhere around your house to repay your debt to nature.”

A post along with a picture of an old man shared by a Facebook page ‘Taja Khabar’, which has more than 3.5 million followers, has received more than 3,300 responses and 471 shares. Similarly, the post shared by Facebook page ‘1 Like for my Country’ with more than 100,000 followers, has received more than 3,400 responses and 398 shares.

The posts have also been shared by Twitter users. A post tweeted by Anil Ram, has earned 58 retweets and more than 270 responses. Similarly, a post by SD Nepal has been retweeted 13 times and has received more than 45 responses.

Similarly, on Tiktok, a video created with a Facebook screenshot of the text and the old man’s image has been shared 40 times and it has received more than 1,600 responses.

Fact Check:

South Asia Check ran a ‘reverse image search’ of the photo and found another image of the same elderly man taken from a slightly different angle in a report published on March 9, 2015 by an American online media, MRCTV. According to the report, the man in the picture is not an Italian but an American World War II veteran Bill Moore from Colorado, US. The report is based on a video interview of Moore by ABC News-affiliated American online The Denver Channel. Moore’s interview was published on February 14, 2015 on The Denver Channel’s official YouTube channel.

Moore was interviewed after his love letter to his girlfriend written on December 29, 1944 was found in a thrift shop by a stranger. The stranger then contacted Moore’s daughter, who finally delivered the letter to her father. In the interview, Moore gets emotional as he reads the letter he had written 70 years ago, when he was just 20.

Based on the same interview, other media outlets including ABC News, Daily Mail and Huffington Post have published reports.

Moore was 90 when ABC News published the news on March 10, 2015 and was living in an assisted care facility in Aurora, Colorado, according to ABC News. It is unclear if Moore is still alive.

Hence, it is clear that Moore’s image has been wrongly used to support a possibly apocryphal story, which appears to promote tree planting.

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