Image shows late-night comedian, not Trump supporter

Crowds gathered outside the Manhattan Criminal Court as a jury found Donald Trump guilty of falsifying business records, making him the first former US president to be convicted of a crime. But a man pictured shouting toward the sky is not a Trump supporter reacting to the verdict; he is a comedian who was acting in the role of "Jake Byrd," a recurring character who crashes events for the late-night TV show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

"Trump supporters are handling the guilty verdict exactly as you'd expect," says a May 30, 2024 post sharing the photo on Threads.

The image shows NBC News footage of a man yelling toward the sky while holding a sign that says, "Free Father Teresa" -- a reference to Trump's claim that, "Mother Teresa could not beat these charges."

<span>Screenshot from Threads taken May 31, 2024</span>
Screenshot from Threads taken May 31, 2024

The picture rocketed across platforms such as X after a New York jury delivered its unanimous verdict in Trump's hush money trial, making him a felon months before the November presidential election that could see him return to the White House. Many posts juxtapose the photo with an image-turned-meme of a woman screaming after the Republican businessman was inaugurated in 2017.

The hush money case was one of four criminal cases against the ex-president, who still faces far more serious charges for seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden and allegedly hoarding and refusing to return top-secret documents after leaving office.

The New York jury found Trump guilty in each of the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records for covering up reimbursement payments to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence over a past sexual encounter that could have affected Trump's 2016 presidential bid.


The decision triggered a mixture of outrage and elation among the crowd of pro- and anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the court.

But the man with the "Free Father Teresa" poster is a comedian who was there on behalf of the late-night TV show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Kimmel, the host, revealed during a May 30 episode that the program had sent Jake Byrd to the trial (archived here).

<span>Screenshot from YouTube taken May 31, 2024</span>
Screenshot from YouTube taken May 31, 2024

"We've been anticipating this moment and documenting it for posterity," Kimmel said. "For the last several days, our friend/legal correspondent Jake Byrd has been camped out in New York City."

The host continued: "He's Donald Trump's number one fan. He was also OJ (Simpson)'s number one fan, Michael Jackson's number one fan. He's been to all the big trials. Here he is, superfan Jake Byrd, outside the courthouse with this especially special, special report."

Kimmel showed a montage of Jake Byrd interacting with Trump supporters, anti-Trump protesters and journalists in New York. He is wearing a baseball hat that reads "#1 fan" and a shirt that says "FREEDON" (sic) above a picture of Trump's face on an eagle.

The show also highlighted TV news shots that featured Jake Byrd, including coverage of the verdict from NBC News (archived here). The picture circulating online appears to stem from the network's YouTube livestream.

Actor and writer Tony Barbieri plays the Jake Byrd character, according to IMDb and news reports (archived here and here). The "Jimmy Kimmel Live" YouTube channel shows he has previously made appearances at Trump rallies, his inauguration and the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The character has also popped up at rallies for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and other politicians, a 2016 presidential debate, a conference for flat-earth believers and Simpson's arraignment.

In 2004, The New York Times quoted him in a story about Jackson, prompting an editor's note from the newspaper.

On Instagram, Barbieri posted a screenshot of Fox News's coverage of the Trump verdict, in which his character is front and center (archived here).

AFP contacted ABC representatives for Kimmel's show for comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about Trump's hush money case here.