(KTLA) — It’s true that you can’t always trust what you see on the internet, even if you’re a United States senator.
On Monday, hours after the worst of Tropical Storm Hilary cleared its way out of Los Angeles, Ted Cruz, a Texas senator and former presidential candidate, shared a post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter, that appeared to show a shark swimming on a flooded roadway.
The photo was shared by sports commentator and satirist Dan Katz, better known by his media pseudonym Big Cat, of Barstool Sports.
“Friend of mine out in LA just took this picture on the 405. And yes, all news and media outlets you have permission to use this. Wild,” Katz wrote in the satirical post.
Cruz shared the photo to his 6.1 million followers with the caption, “Holy crap.”
X users were quick to point out that the photo did not depict what the caption claimed it did.
Corrections made to Community Notes, a function on X that allows users to provide additional context or dispute the information presented in a post, clarified that the photo was, in fact, not on the 405 Freeway and not related to the unprecedented tropical storm at all.
The photo originally began circulating online in 2011, in reference to Hurricane Irene, with social media users claiming the photo depicted a shark on a flooded roadway in Puerto Rico. In the years since its rise to internet infamy, the photo has been shared in reference to several hurricanes, floods and other weather events.
The photo even has its own Wikipedia page and was debunked by Snopes.com, which determined it was two separate images edited together with photo-editing software.
“The photograph is a digital hoax,” Snopes.com wrote in its August 2011 assessment. “The image of the shark was lifted from a 2005 photograph of a kayaker being trailed by a great white shark and pasted into a photograph of a flooded street.”
After users correctly pointed out that the photo was fake and had nothing to do with California’s heavy rain, Cruz replied with a crack of his own toward Los Angeles and a warning to anyone in the path of the storm.
“I’m told this is a joke,” Cruz wrote in a reply to his own post. “In LA, you never know…”
Cruz also urged everyone to “stay safe from the storm or otherwise.”
This isn’t the first time Cruz has had an awkward moment on social media. In February 2021, images of Cruz that circulated on Twitter showed him at an airport, getting ready to leave Texas to travel to Mexico with his family during statewide power outages and a devastating winter storm. He later returned to Texas and called the trip a mistake.
In October 2022, he shared an image of a fake story from The Atlantic with a doctored headline and captioned the post: “The Left is beyond parody.” He deleted the post, but defended his comment, saying it “could easily have been real.”
In February 2021, he shared a post from the popular political parody site The Babylon Bee entitled “Disney Posts Job Ad Looking For Strong, Fierce Women Who Are Also Obedient, Submissive, And Docile.” He captioned that post with the comment: “I wish this was parody.”
On Sept. 11, 2017, his official account “liked” a tweet from a pornographic film. Cruz blamed the snafu on a staffer.