NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
By The Associated Press
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue headlines of the week. None of these stories is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:
THE FACTS: Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said the multiple reports that Melania Trump had a ceremony to rid the White House of demons are “not true in any way.” The stories come from a broadcast with Indiana pastor and radio host Paul Begley, who said that Mrs. Trump said at her husband’s presidential inauguration that she would not move in to the White House until the residence was exorcised.
THE FACTS: The Kremlin denied issuing a warrant for the billionaire liberal philanthropist, a frequent target of false news stories. It refuted multiple sites’ claims that Putin had banned Soros from Russia last year for trying to destabilize its economy in the early 1990s. Soros is not wanted by any country for arrest and extradition, according to a list compiled by the international law enforcement organization Interpol.
NOT REAL: BREAKING: Rare HIGHLY Contagious Virus Spreading Like Wildfire… Death Toll Rising RAPIDLY
THE FACTS: The story appearing on the AmericasFreedomFighters site correctly reports an outbreak of norovirus at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a total of 128 infected in the past week. The headline incorrectly reports that any of the cases has resulted in death. Norovirus is a common, infectious bug that causes unpleasant symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting but usually doesn’t require medical attention.
THE FACTS: NASA has been willing to pay people willing to stay in bed to give scientists information on how the body adapts to weightlessness. But none of the studies involved marijuana use. The agency also hasn’t conducted bed rest studies in some time. NASA has denied this false story before, which has recirculated over the past several months.
THE FACTS: Winfrey shared in an Instagram post after the January mudslides devastated the coastal town of Montecito that her property was OK. “Some mud and minor damage that pales in comparison to what my neighbors are going thru,” she wrote. Several stories shared on social media that reported her home was destroyed also focused on Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech on gender and racial inequality and talk of a possible presidential candidacy.
Special President Trump section!
AP FACT CHECK: Trump on MS-13 gang and stock market By JOSH BOAK and CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press
TRUMP: “In the ‘old days,’ when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!” — Tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: It’s not that simple, and it’s not true that a positive economic indicator necessarily means a rise in stocks. The opposite can happen, depending on what sort of chain reaction is anticipated by investors.
The market dive was prompted in part by the news that wages are rising at the best pace in eight years after a prolonged bout of sluggish gains. Higher wages can lead to more inflation. The Fed could try to restrain inflation by raising interest rates, which would hurt corporate profits and limit the pace of economic growth. That’s how good news for workers can come with a downside for investors.
Likewise, bad news can make the market rise. In 2016, for example, the Labor Department initially reported that employers added a mere 38,000 jobs in May. After slipping that day, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed the next trading day. A weak jobs report can cause stocks to dip briefly, then surge the following days on the belief that the Fed will hold off on rate increases.
TRUMP: “MS-13 recruits through our broken immigration system, violating our borders, and it just comes right through; whenever they want to come through, they come through. It’s much tougher now since we’ve been there. But we need much better border mechanisms and much better border security. We need the wall.” — Remarks Tuesday at a meeting with law enforcement officials.
THE FACTS: A wall might conceivably slow but can’t stop MS-13, because it is well established in the U.S. and has many U.S. citizens in its ranks — people who can’t be denied entry based on their nationality, or deported.
The gang started in the 1980s in Los Angeles, initially made up largely of refugees and other immigrants from El Salvador, and “spread quickly across the country,” according to a Justice Department fact sheet. An FBI assessment from January 2008 said the gang was operating in at least 42 states and the District of Columbia, roughly the same number of states estimated in 2017. It has also spread outside the U.S.
That FBI assessment said the group was made up largely of first-generation Americans and Salvadoran nationals. A decade later, the government has not said how many it thinks are citizens and immigrants. In notable raids on MS-13 in 2015 and 2016, most of the people caught were found to be U.S. citizens.
Despite the gang’s decades-old history in the U.S., Trump has routinely overstated the immigrant component, saying in May 2017 it’s a “large group of gangs that have been let into our country over a fairly short period of time” and blaming the Obama administration for having “allowed bad MS-13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.”
TRUMP: “The ones that don’t want security at the southern border, or any other border, are the Democrats. They don’t care about the security of our country. They don’t care about MS-13 killers pouring into our country. … Nobody was bringing them out before us.” — Speech Monday on Ohio.
THE FACTS: Recent history does not show such indifference. The U.S. carried out record deportations during the Obama administration and, on MS-13 specifically, took the unprecedented action of labelling the street gang a transnational criminal organization and announcing a freeze on its U.S. assets.
Trump’s own Justice Department has indirectly credited the Obama administration, in its early years, with putting heavy pressure on the gang. It said, “Through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, great progress was made diminishing or severely (disrupting) the gang within certain targeted areas of the U.S. by 2009 and 2010.” That was not enough to crush MS-13 and Trump is taking extra steps toward that goal. But he is not the first to go after the gang.
The results so far are not clear. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month the U.S. has “worked with our international allies to arrest or charge more than 4,000 MS-13 members.” That suggests at least some of the 4,000 weren’t in the U.S. when they were arrested and aren’t now in U.S. prisons.
(Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.)
AP FACT CHECK: Trump hypes claims on immigrants, TV viewers By HOPE YEN and JILL COLVIN, Associated Press
TRUMP: “March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Democrats are doing nothing about DACA. They Resist, Blame, Complain and Obstruct – and do nothing. Start pushing Nancy Pelosi and the Dems to work out a DACA fix, NOW!” — tweet Thursday.
THE FACTS: Not so fast. A recent court ruling temporarily blocking the Trump administration’s plan to end the program has left the March 5 deadline all but moot for now.
The deadline dates back to Sept. 5, when Trump announced that he was ending the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provided protection from deportation and work permits for about 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and are now living here illegally.
To lessen the blow, the administration announced that recipients whose status was set to expire before March 5 would be allowed to apply for renewals, so long as their applications were received within a month. Trump framed that as giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix.
But that timeline became far less significant when a federal court judge in San Francisco blocked Trump’s action, saying young immigrants would suffer “irreparable harm.”
In response, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it was once again accepting DACA renewals, processing them just as they had before Trump’s September announcement — including renewals for applicants whose permits expire after March 5.
The judge’s order to accept DACA renewals will remain in effect at least until the Supreme Court rules definitively.
Trump is using the March 5 deadline as pressure for Democrats to come to the table, while Democrats will probably spend the next month arguing that a failure to act leaves DACA recipients vulnerable and living in fear. But without a looming deadline, it seems doubtful there would be the same urgency to get something done.
TRUMP: “Thank you for all of the nice compliments and reviews on the State of the Union speech. 45.6 million people watched, the highest number in history.” — tweet Wednesday.
THE FACTS: Not the highest in history. Trump’s TV viewership as measured by Nielsen (45.6 million, as he said) trailed that for first State of the Union speeches by Barack Obama (48 million), George W. Bush (51.7 million) and Bill Clinton (46.8 million).
Trump also got more TV viewers in his first speech to Congress a year ago (47.7 million) than in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night.
There is no reliable measure for how many people watched Tuesday on their computers or phones, a slice of viewership that is not counted by Nielsen. But Trump was not factoring in those viewers in his false claim. He cited the Nielsen number only.
TRUMP: “We’ve signed into law the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.” — remarks Thursday to Republican lawmakers’ retreat.
THE FACTS: No. The December tax overhaul ranks behind Ronald Reagan’s in the early 1980s, post-World War II tax cuts and at least several more. He made the same claim Tuesday night and countless times before that.
An analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget in the fall put Trump’s package as the eighth biggest since 1918. As a percentage of the total economy, Reagan’s 1981 cut is the biggest followed by the 1945 rollback of taxes that financed World War II.
Valued at $1.5 trillion over 10 years, Trump’s plan is indeed large and expensive. But it’s much smaller than originally intended. Back in the spring, it was shaping up as a $5.5 trillion package. Even then it would have only been the third largest since 1940 as a share of gross domestic product.
STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH:
TRUMP: “The third pillar (of my immigration plan) ends the visa lottery — a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard to skill, merit or the safety of our people.”
THE FACTS: The program is not nearly that random and it does address skills, merit and safety.
The diversity visa program awards up to 50,000 green cards a year to people from underrepresented countries, largely in Africa. It requires applicants to have completed a high school education or have at least two years of experience in the past five years in a selection of fields identified by the Labor Department.
Winners are then randomly selected by computer, from that pool of applicants who met the pre-conditions. Winners must submit to extensive background checks, just like any other immigrant.
TRUMP: “We have ended the war on American energy.”
THE FACTS: What war? Energy production was unleashed in past administrations, particularly Obama’s. Advances in hydraulic fracturing before Trump became president made it economical to tap vast reserves of natural gas. Oil production also greatly increased, reducing imports.
Before the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. for the first time in decades was getting more energy domestically than it imports. Before Obama, George W. Bush was no adversary of the energy industry. One of Trump’s consequential actions as president on this front was to approve the Keystone XL pipeline — a source of foreign oil, from Canada.
TRUMP: “We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.”
THE FACTS: There’s nothing new in that. The U.S. has long exported all sorts of energy, while importing even more. If Trump meant that the U.S. has become a net exporter of energy, he’s rushing things along. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the U.S. will become a net energy exporter in the next decade, primarily because of a boom in oil and gas production that began before Trump’s presidency. The Trump White House has predicted that could happen sooner, by 2020. But that’s not “now.”
TRUMP: “For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities.”
THE FACTS: The borders were far from open before his presidency, however imperfectly they may have been guarded.
The government under George W. Bush and Obama roughly doubled the ranks of the Border Patrol, and Bush extended fencing to cover nearly one-third of the border during his final years in office. The Obama administration deported more than 2 million immigrants during the eight years he was in office, more than in previous administrations. Border arrests, a useful if imperfect gauge of illegal crossings, have dropped sharply over the past decade.
TRUMP: “Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States, something we haven’t seen for decades.”
THE FACTS: He’s wrong about recent decades. The auto industry has regularly been opening and expanding factories since before Trump became president. Toyota opened its Mississippi factory in 2011. Hyundai’s plant in Alabama dates to 2005. In 2010, Tesla fully acquired and updated an old factory to produce its electric vehicles.
Trump also declared that “Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan.” That’s not exactly the case, either. Chrysler announced it will move production of heavy-duty pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan, but the plant is not closing in Mexico. It will start producing other vehicles for global sales and no change in its workforce is anticipated.
TRUMP: “We repealed the core of the disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.”
THE FACTS: No, it’s not gone. It’s going, in 2019. People who go without insurance this year are still subject to fines.
Congress did repeal the unpopular requirement that most Americans carry insurance or risk a tax penalty, but that takes effect next year.
TRUMP: “We have sent thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons.”
THE FACTS: That’s an exaggeration and goes beyond how even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the administration’s most aggressive anti-gang enforcer, characterizes the scope of the effort.
Sessions said in speeches this past week that federal authorities had secured the convictions of nearly 500 human traffickers and 1,200 gang members, “and worked with our international allies to arrest or charge more than 4,000 MS-13 members.” On other occasions, the attorney general has specifically said the 4,000 number reflects work done with “our partners in Central America.”
That suggests that at least some of the MS-13 members Trump is referring to weren’t actually in the U.S when they were arrested, and aren’t now in U.S. prisons.
TRUMP: “We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal.”
THE FACTS: Coal is not clean. According to the Energy Department, more than 83 percent of all major air pollutants — sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, toxic mercury and dangerous soot particles — from power plants are from coal, even though coal makes up only 43 percent of the power generation. Power plants are the No. 1 source of those pollutants.
Coal produces nearly twice as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide per energy created as natural gas, the department says.
In 2011, coal burning emitted more than 6 million tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides versus 430,000 tons from other energy sources combined.
Associated Press writers Christopher Rugaber, Josh Boak, Matthew Daly, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Eric Tucker, Seth Borenstein, Elliot Spagat, Alan Fram and Cal Woodward contributed to this report.
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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.