FAKE NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
Click here to read more about The Washington Post’s survey as to whether Americans believe President Trump’s statements.
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: “The Democrats and President Obama gave Iran 150 Billion Dollars and got nothing, but they can’t give 5 Billion Dollars for National Security and a Wall?”
THE FACTS: There was no $150 billion payout from the U.S. treasury to Iran, according to an AP Fact Check. The erroneous claim, which is circulating widely on social media, was made in a tweet Wednesday by President Donald Trump after a contentious meeting with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer about funding for a border wall. Trump has made the Iran claim before. An AP Fact Check published April 24, 2018, found that the money Trump refers to represents Iranian assets held abroad that were frozen until a deal was reached in 2015 to curb Iran’s nuclear program and ease sanctions. Tehran was then allowed access to its funds. Trump is seeking $5 billion in an upcoming spending bill to put toward construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border. Democrats have voiced opposition to spending more than $1.6 billion for border security.
THE CLAIM: “Illinois Leaders Propose Tax on Departing Residents”
THE FACTS: Posts circulating on Facebook wrongly state that incoming Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker held a press conference with Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to announce a plan to tax residents, making $100,000 a year or more, who relocate to another state. Pritzker did not propose such a tax and has not held a press conference with the state’s top Democratic legislative leaders since being elected. The false post said plans were announced for a “departing taxpayer fee,” which would either assess a 50 percent tax on a year’s income or a 1 percent tax on property owned by those leaving. Some social media users gave a press conference date of Nov. 13. The governor did not hold a press conference that day, according to news release archives on his campaign website. Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh confirmed to The Associated Press that Pritzker has not proposed a “departing taxpayer fee.”
THE CLAIM: “DO NOT post memes about how terrible it is to kneel during the national anthem when your dear leader cannot even put his hand over his heart during WWII VETERAN George HW Bush’s funeral!”
THE FACTS: The statement is circulating on social media with a photo that shows Trump standing with his arms to his sides as Bush’s casket is carried to the front of the National Cathedral. The photo was taken after he had lowered his hand. Multiple pictures by Associated Press photographer Carolyn Kaster show Trump with his hand over his heart as Bush’s casket passed his pew, both as it was brought in and as it was taken out. Guidelines for military funerals state that military personnel not in uniform should hold their right hand over their heart at any time the casket is being moved. The practice is commonly observed by civilians in attendance as a mark of respect for the service and sacrifice of the deceased. Bush was a naval aviator and World War II hero.
THE CLAIM: “Trudeau installs UN flag at border crossing as the Liberal leader prepares to cede control of our borders to the UN.”
THE FACTS: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not install a U.N. flag on the Peace Bridge, as a photo caption states in a post circulating on Facebook; and there are no plans by the government to give the U.N. power over the country’s borders. Social media users began sharing the photo on Monday as Canada, along with more than 150 countries, adopted the non-binding Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The agreement is part of an effort to help countries deal with mass migration comprehensively and has led to false claims online, including that the pact would take away Canada’s sovereignty. Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority, said the U.N. flag has flown from the bridge for more than 40 years.
THE CLAIM: “Nationwide Listeria Outbreak Affects Vegetables From Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, and MORE!”
THE FACTS: No nationwide listeria outbreaks involving vegetables have been reported in December by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The false report, circulating under the guise of a public service announcement, states that listeria contamination was found in vegetables sold in popular supermarkets across the country and “could potentially affect millions of Americans.” The information used to support the claim is from an Oct. 22, 2017, Miami Herald story about a “listeria-inspired” recall of products by Mann Packing.
THE CLAIM: President Trump: “Well the FBI said Michael Flynn, a general and a great person, they said he didn’t lie. And Mueller said: ‘Well, maybe he did.’ And now they’re all having a big dispute, so I think it’s a great thing that the judge is looking into that situation. It’s an honor for a lot of terrific people.”
THE FACTS: That’s not what the FBI said. And Flynn and prosecutors agree he lied to the FBI.
The claim picked up steam after Republicans on the House intelligence committee issued a report this year that said Comey, in a private briefing, said that the agents who interviewed Flynn “discerned no physical indications of deception” and saw “nothing that indicated to them that he knew he was lying to them.” But Comey described that description as a “garble” in a private interview with House lawmakers last week.
“What I recall telling the House Intelligence Committee is that the agents observed none of the common indicia of lying — physical manifestations, changes in tone, changes in pace — that would indicate the person I’m interviewing knows they’re telling me stuff that ain’t true,” Comey said. “They didn’t see that here. It was a natural conversation, answered fully their questions, didn’t avoid. That notwithstanding, they concluded he was lying.”
It is true that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan has asked for documents related to quotations included in a sentencing memo from Flynn’s defense team. One of the documents is a memo authored by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe summarizing his involvement in Flynn’s Jan. 24, 2017, FBI interview. The other document contains notes from an August 2017 FBI interview detailing agents’ interactions with Flynn the day of his interview.
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.