Jennifer Garner’s act of generosity toward a homeless man recently was met with a wave of cynicism among a faction of social media users, who suggested that the screen star was courting positive publicity at the time.
On Tuesday, footage was shared of the Elektra star at California’s Santa Monica Pier, where she spoke with a man in a wheelchair. Through the window of her sport utility vehicle, Garner handed him a snack pack. After speaking further with the man, she was filmed getting out of her vehicle and putting socks on the man’s feet.
Taking her generosity a step further, Garner removed one of her own shoes and attempted to put it on the man’s foot. On realizing that it didn’t fit, she ran over to a paparazzo who was filming her, asked what size shoes he wore, and offered to buy his footwear from him to donate to the man.
Discussing the moment in a video shared on YouTube on Tuesday, staffers at TMZ, who described the man in the wheelchair as homeless, said that the videographer, who works for the X17 Agency, gave the shoes to Garner without taking any payment from her.
While TMZ founder Harvey Levin called the mother of three “so sweet” and “the best” for her act of kindness, the reaction was notably less favorable when photos of the moment were shared on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
A four-photo sequence of the heartwarming moment was posted on X, where users appeared intent on not accepting that the act was genuine.
“They just magically had a photographer there and they were also the same shoe size?” commented one detractor on the platform.
“Looks like a PR stunt with the high quality pictures,” said another, apparently unaware of the photographer’s proximity to Garner at the time.
Suggesting that Garner had collaborated with the photographer, who caught the moment on film, another wrote that the images look “very ‘go over there and take some pictures of me with this disabled man.'”
“I’m sorry but my first reaction was.. ‘OH that’s pretty cool.. Now do it again without the cameras rolling,'” another said in reaction to the images.
Amid the flood of criticism, many other X users spoke out in Garner’s defense, with some pointing out that, as a celebrity living in the Los Angeles area, she’s regularly photographed without asking to be while going about her business.
“I mean do you expect her not to be photographed?” one asked in response to the cynicism. “It’s Jennifer [Garner], she’ll be photographed regardless if she wants it or not (sadly). How could she do something like this without being photographed?”
Responding to suggestions that Garner’s gesture was offered as part of a bid to boost her profile, another wrote: “Out of all the women in Hollywood, why the f*** would Jennifer Garner of all need a better public image […] I don’t even know if that’s possible.”
In answer to the questions about the quality of the images, another explained that “most phone cameras are 4K [resolution] now, so the quality doesn’t really prove anything either way.”
Meanwhile, another maintained that the footage was very much in keeping with the impression they had of Garner. “I will say I’ve seen her in public twice and both times she was doing kind acts with no cameras around,” they commented.
Newsweek has contacted representatives of Garner and X17 Agency via email for comment.
Garner’s acts of kindness and philanthropic efforts have been well documented over the years, with the Alias star having worked with Save the Children for more than a decade and a half.
Through her work with the nonprofit, where she started as an artist ambassador and now serves as a board member, she traveled to Kentucky in the summer of 2022 to provide aid to those affected by devastating flash floods.
The screen star, who has advocated for investment in early childhood education, told Town & Country last year: “I treat Save the Children like a job—and it’s a job I take as seriously as any job. I mean, how you do anything is how you do everything.”