Fact check: Man photographed with Donald Trump in 2016 was born without arms

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The claim: A photo shows Donald Trump embracing a man who lost both of his arms

A viral story on social media is spreading an inaccurate account about then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 interaction with a disabled man.

The image shows Trump touching a man’s face. That man has two prosthetic arms.

“This Patriot lost both arms,” reads text under an image in a July 21 Facebook post. “The feeling of a handshake is now lost to him. President Trump realized this, and so (he) touched his face, so he can feel the human connection.”

But the man in the image didn't lose his arms. He was born without them.

The Trump campaign fueled confusion about whether the man, identified as Henry “Bubba” Stevenson Jr., had lost his arms while serving in the military when it included the image in a 2016 campaign video about veterans.

The same image circulated with a similar story, and the added detail that the man was a veteran, in the months leading up to the 2020 election

In September 2020, radio and TV personality Mark Simone claimed in a tweet the image shows a veteran. Trump later retweeted it.

Fact-checkers debunked the claim in September 2019 and September 2020. There is no evidence Stevenson is a veteran.

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USA TODAY reached out to Simone and the Facebook user who shared the post for comment.

Donald Trump signs autographs following a presidential campaign rally on Monday, May 2, 2016, inside the Century Center in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN
Donald Trump signs autographs following a presidential campaign rally on Monday, May 2, 2016, inside the Century Center in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

Man was born without arms

The photo shows Stevenson meeting Trump at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Jan. 8, 2016. The News & Reporter, a local paper, published an article and photos of the exchange.

“Stevenson was born without arms. On his right side, his arm stops shy of his elbow and on his left side, there is only a nub below his shoulder,” the newspaper reported.

According to the report, Trump signed Stevenson’s left prosthetic arm, a sign and a hat. Stevenson said Trump approached him after his speech and asked how he had lost his arms. He replied that he was born without them.

A bystander caught the interaction on video and posted it to YouTube.

In 2014, Stevenson’s quest to raise money for prosthetic arms made headlines. He and his family set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for bionic arms that cost $60,000 apiece.

In an article by WLTX, a CBS affiliate TV station in South Carolina, Stevenson’s mother is quoted describing how he coped with his disability as a child.

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The News & Reporter reported that Stevenson got his first bionic arm in September 2014. His GoFundMe campaign for a second arm is still posted.

None of the articles mention that Stevenson served in the military. USA TODAY could find no other evidence that he's a veteran.

USA TODAY reached out to Stevenson for comment.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a photo shows Trump embracing a man who lost both of his arms. The photo shows Trump at a 2016 rally in South Carolina meeting a man who was born without arms.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Man in 2016 photo with Donald Trump was born without arms

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