Zidouemba Likely Used Doctored Image in Allegations Against Sen.-Elect

By Francisco “A.J.” Camacho

Recently-elected Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) Undergraduate Senator Dan Saleem is denying accusations of racism directed at him from outgoing Student Association (SA) President Christian Zidouemba. While the Student Rights & Responsibilities (SRR) office is investigating the allegations, an independent analysis by the WRGW Blog has found it is more likely than not that Zidouemba’s published evidence against Saleem is at least partially manipulated.

In mid-April, shortly before the SA elections, incumbent President Christian Zidouemba posted a story on his Instagram account allegedly showing a screenshot of Saleem writing, “His [SA Senate Candidate Aidan Spencer’s] only policy is being black and he made fun of Demetrius’s mom being cheated on. He’s an unethical black piece of ****.”

Zidouemba’s original Instagram story asserting allegations of racism against Saleem.

Zidouemba wrote underneath the image in his story, “This is disgusting behavior that has been said by a potential senate candidate about another. I am appalled.”

Saleem has denied ever writing the message, claiming the supposed screenshot was manipulated. Saleem spoke with the WRGW Blog and provided what he says is evidence to support his claim of fabrication.

“You see the crop[ped] images of my face,” Saleem told the Blog, “There’s a line there because you cannot crop in terms of a circle, you can only crop in terms of a square.” The profile photo of Saleem in Christian’s story is not perfectly round but has flattened edges on the right and top sides.

Saleem and associates created this annotated comparison to argue Zidouemba’s image was doctored.

Saleem added that the spacing of the lines of the text seemed off to people he consulted, including SA Senator-elect Andrew An and acquaintances from his time in the military. When asked for his strongest evidence against the authenticity of the image, Saleem said, “I think it’s actually more of a personal point of evidence. . . . I have never actually censored the word on text or in person, in reality, the word ‘shit.’ I am from New York, I’m a native New Yorker. I curse like a sailor.”

The WRGW Blog compared the image to a verified screenshot from Instagram direct messages (DMs) on an iPhone and a Google Pixel as well as one provided by SA Senator-elect Emmy Ly, an associate of Saleem. Initial comparisons were also made for messages on GroupMe, WhatsApp, Messages by Google, and Messages (Apple), but the alleged screenshot was determined to be too different and was most likely of, or intended to resemble, Instagram DMs.

The Blog assessment determined that there was abnormally large spacing between lines of text in the supposed screenshot and that the profile photo showing Saleem was more pixelated than would be expected based on the resolution of the text in the same image. Most decisively, though, the assessment corroborated Saleem’s claim that the top and right sides of the image’s profile photo were unnaturally flattened, possibly due to cropping.

In the end, the Blog’s assessment considers it more likely than not that the image posted by Zidouemba is at least partially edited. However, it should be noted that the investigation was not exhaustive of potential messaging platforms and that it was not carried out by individuals with particular expertise in photo manipulation.

When contacted by the Blog, Zidouemba claimed he had evidence for the veracity of the image but would not provide it to the Blog in deference to the ongoing SRR investigation.

“As a president and a black person on this campus,” Zidouemba said, “seeing these comments made by SA Senator-elect Dan Saleem was disgraceful and concerning to me. This was sent to me by an anonymous person. For him to deny the allegations is even concerning and alarming to me. However, Student Rights and Responsibility is working on this case. Despite having much proof of this concerning the matter, I ask that we let SRR take care of it.”

Saleem said that he suspects the allegations may be an act of retribution against him for leaving a shadow group of SA candidates known as ‘The Coalition.’ Saleem says he left the Coalition after, “a smear campaign was started on Demetrius [Apostolis],” who has since been elected SA Vice President. Saleem alleges the Coalition group chat was administered by then-SA Senatorial Candidate Aidan Spencer who “supported the campaign going on [and] did nothing to stop it.”

Furthermore, Saleem says he was critical of Spencer for what Saleem understood to be insulting behavior concerning the mother of then-Vice Presidential candidate Demetrius Apostolis. “The one thing I saw,” Saleem said, “was Aidan Spencer laughing during the [SA] debate and trying to hold in laughter as the candidate [Apostolis] was making remarks about his mother.”

When asked if he believes Zidouemba fabricated the image alleging to show screenshots of his messages, Saleem said he had “no idea,” but that the president was at least spreading falsified information. 

“It is my intention to place a no contact order on him [Zidouemba] because of speculation regarding him reaching out to my family now,” Saleem said, “My mother was contacted by someone to essentially indicate that I was ‘bribing’ people with alcohol and other drugs to support me.”

The SSR has yet to announce any findings from its investigation into the allegations.

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