A viral picture which appeared to show Justin Bieber eating a burrito sideways has been outed as a prank.
But not before it prompted huge debate online.
Numerous media outlets around the world had shared the image, which appeared to show the singer struggling to fit the food in his mouth while sitting on a park bench.
But after the photo sparked debate online, YouTubers Yes Theory revealed that the image was not only staged, it wasn’t even Bieber.
In a video posted on their social channels, the creators explained that they had hired Bieber lookalike Brad Soussa and flown him to Los Angeles.
The resulting image was then posted on Reddit, where it went viral.
Soon there was online outrage at Bieber’s apparent mode of “attacking” the food—with one outlet saying “if you’re not offended, you’re not American”.
does....justin bieber not know how... burritos work ? https://t.co/WWKP2ttARe— ryan bassil (@ryan bassil) 1540481869.0
@ryanbassil Reminds me of this... https://t.co/emYYpn2CDr— Fiona Taylor (@Fiona Taylor) 1540492902.0
Some blamed it on the pop star's Canadian roots.
@ryanbassil @BennyBeans48 Canada is really far away from Latin America.— shay z (@shay z) 1540507307.0
@ryanbassil Canadian culture is rich and wonderful. Who are we to judge them for their bizarre burrito-eating techniques?— kyle (@kyle) 1540482467.0
@californiap4le @ryanbassil This is not a Canadian thing, I can assure you lol.— Nick Pfeifer (@Nick Pfeifer) 1540482726.0
@nickyelbows @ryanbassil lol I'm just joshing, no worries. I'm well aware that you guys eat your burritos normally… https://t.co/nym3eDR0WG— kyle (@kyle) 1540486503.0
The pranksters—Thomas Brag, Matt Dajer, Ammar Kandil and Bobby Derin—even gave interviews with journalists under the pretense of having captured Bieber by chance in a park in West Hollywood.
In reality the image was lookalike Soussa wearing a wig, taken on a day when they also filmed him helping an elderly woman, actually hired from website Rent A Grandma, across the street.
Pop star Bieber, 24, has not yet commented on the prank, but his publicist Scooter Braun shared footage of a phone conversation he held with Yes Theory before the prank was revealed, in which he claims to have worked out early what was going on.
. @YesTheory but let’s be clear.. you can never prank a prankster... as for everyone else... 🤦🏻♂️ https://t.co/RXtaF9f2gX— Scooter Braun (@Scooter Braun) 1540752224.0
Speaking with Dajer and Kandil, Braun said:
“First of all I know what he looks like."
“Number two, I found it very amusing because I had so many people hitting me saying why is your boy eating a burrito like this."
“But the best part is how I found out it was you guys. I decided to put it up on my Instagram for one minute and one minute only with a little caption, pretending I thought it was him."
“I thought to myself some kid is going to hit me and tell me who did this."
“Within 30 seconds of posting it and taking it down, your manager hits me."
“So I just want you to know that you can’t prank a prankster, but I’m going to play along and I’m not going to say anything because it’s really funny.”
Yes Theory thanked Scooter Braun for playing along with their prank.
@scooterbraun You're a legend Scooter! Thanks for playing along haha— Yes Theory (@Yes Theory) 1540752836.0
But people wanted to know, what was Justin Bieber's reaction?
@YesTheory @scooterbraun What id really like to know is what Bieber thought of all of this 😂— Andrea (@Andrea) 1540753934.0
So far, no word from the man himself.
A version of this article originally appeared on Press Association.