A photograph of former U.S. President Donald Trump taken on Jan. 17, 2024, appeared to show mysterious red marks on his hands, prompting speculation on social media that Trump suffered from rashes, sores, syphilis — or perhaps just red Sharpie stains on his fingers.
Some are saying Donald J. Trump has syphilis. It looks more like hand herpes to me. What’s your guess? pic.twitter.com/cOMRW2tKrn
— Angela Belcamino (@AngelaBelcamino) January 17, 2024
The below photograph, credited to AFP/Getty Images photographer Charly Triballeau, is authentic.
Former US President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan federal court for the second defamation trial against him, in New York City on January 17, 2024. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
It shows Trump leaving Trump Tower for the Manhattan federal court to attend the second defamation trial against him. Getty Images published a series of similar photos revealing the marks on his hands.
The Mirror, a tabloid outlet, wrote that according to a former Bill Clinton advisor, Trump does have syphilis. James Carville reportedly said in a video, “They don't look like cuts to me. They look like sores. And I've asked a number of MDs (doctors), what medical condition manifests itself through hand sores and the answer is immediate and unanimous — secondary syphilis." We note that Carville is not a medical professional.
As of this writing, it is unknown what caused those red marks on Trump’s hands. Insider spoke to Joshua Zeichner, an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who said there were a number of possibilities. He suggested Trump's hands could simply be too dry, he had blisters from an activity like golf, or that he had gotten lime juice on his hands that can cause chemical burns to the skin, or any other reason that causes rashes.
Snopes has reached out to the Trump campaign and the photographer with questions about the marks. Charly Triballeau told us he took the photographs that morning just before 9 a.m. and noticed the marks when he reviewed the images on his laptop screen. He had "absolutely no clue" what the marks could be. He noted that right after Trump left in a motorcade, he went to a nearby cafe to file the photographs with the AFP Photo Desk in Washington D.C.
Red Marks Aren't Evident in Photos Taken Later the Same Day
Strangely, photographs taken at other points in the day seem to show no marks or "sores" at all — or at minimum they aren't as apparent as they were in the pictures taken before his court appearance. It is difficult to see any markings at all in these particular images of Trump, taken at a distance by Anadolu Agency, also on January 17. These images show Trump on his way to a news conference following his court appearance.
Former US president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives at 40 Wall Street, also known as the Trump Building, to address the media following the leaving the second day of his defamation trial involving former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll at Manhattan federal court in New York, United States on January 17, 2024. (Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty Images)
(Selcuk Acar/Anadolu/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on January 17, 2024. ( TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump was attending a defamation trial filed against him by writer E. Jean Carroll. In 2019 Carroll said Trump raped her in a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s, to which Trump issued a denial, resulting in her filing a defamation lawsuit against him. While the judge ruled that Trump’s comments were indeed defamatory in nature, the current trial is focused on the damages Carroll should be awarded.
“Former US President and 2024 Presidential Candidate Donald Trump...” Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/former-us-president-and-2024-presidential-candidate-donald-news-photo/1933434555. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
“Former US President Donald Trump Leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan...” Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/former-us-president-donald-trump-leaves-trump-tower-for-news-photo/1932721756. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
“Former US President Donald Trump Leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan...” Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/former-us-president-donald-trump-leaves-trump-tower-for-news-photo/1932715340. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
Hymes, Clare, et al. The Second Trial between Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll Began Tuesday. Here’s What to Know. - CBS News. 16 Jan. 2024, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/trump-e-jean-carroll-trial-what-to-know/. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
Leishman, Fiona. “Trump’s Bloody Red Hands ‘are Syphilis’ Says Ex-Clinton Advisor in Wild Claim.” The Mirror, 18 Jan. 2024, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/us-news/donald-trumps-bloody-red-hands-31910565. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
“We Asked a Dermatologist about the Mystery Marks on Trump’s Hands. Here’s What He Said.” Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.in/science/health/news/we-asked-a-dermatologist-about-the-mystery-marks-on-trumps-hands-heres-what-he-said-/articleshow/106938698.cms. Accessed 18 Jan. 2024.
Jan. 19, 2024: The story was updated with a comment from the photographer.