Here is our bi-weekly compilation of social media stories and images that went viral but were completely false. Even though they were shared widely on social media and believed by many, it was all fake news.
The biggest fake news culprits were that Rep. Elijah Cummings was introducing a bill to keep all of President Barack Obama’s records sealed while trying to open Donald Trump’s, Earth Day garbage and Muslims attacking Danish police in Copenhagen.
Here are the real facts behind these fake stories:
CLAIM: “Elijah Cummings wrote a bill to keep all of Obama’s records sealed, but he insists that Congress must see all of President Trump’s financial records.”
THE FACTS: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., did not introduce a bill to keep President Barack Obama’s records sealed as posts being shared on Facebook say. In 2014, Cummings introduced legislation to improve public access to presidential records. The bill was signed into law by Obama on Nov. 26, 2014. The Presidential and Federal Records Act Amendments of 2014 created new guidelines to secure the timely release of presidential records, while protecting documents relating to national security, according to a summary of the law published on Congress.gov, the official website for federal legislative information.
It gives presidents 60 days to review their records after being notified that they will be made public in the National Archives. The amendments also included changes to the definition of federal records to include electronic records and clarified how federal officials could use private email. The claim has been circulating on Facebook with a photo of Obama placing the Medal of Freedom on Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a leader in the civil rights movement, apparently mistaking Lewis for Cummings. Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, has subpoenaed years of President Donald Trump’s financial records. Trump and his business organization have filed a federal lawsuit to block the subpoena, media outlets reported.
CLAIM: Video purports to show Muslims attacking Danish police in Copenhagen
THE FACTS: A video being shared on Facebook, which shows protesters attacking a blue police van, was actually taken during a protest in Algeria. Social media users attempted to link the video to an April 14 demonstration in Denmark that was sparked by a far-right provocateur who tossed in the air a copy of the Quran in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Copenhagen. The video shows Algerians in the streets of Algiers, the capital, during a March 8 protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who at 82 was seeking a fifth term in office. He stepped down about four weeks later, media outlets reported. Casbah Tribune, an Algerian media outlet, posted the video with a caption that described violence against police during a March 8 demonstration on Krim Belkacem, a street in Algiers. Media coverage of the protest is consistent with images from the video, and a video journalist said the blue police van matches those used in Algiers.
CLAIM: THIS IS HOW ENVIRONMENTALISTS LEFT A PARK IN CALIFORNIA AFTER AN EARTH DAY CELEBRATION –caption with photo of a park strewn with garbage
THE FACTS: The image, which began appearing days after Earth Day celebrations on April 22, is falsely captioned. The photo was taken nearly a decade ago to show debris left from tailgate parties at the University of Georgia in Athens following a football game September 12, 2009. The Atlanta Journal Constitution published the photo with a story on Sept. 17, 2009, about the mess partygoers left at the Bulldogs’ home opener against South Carolina. Media outlets reported that workers collected about 70 tons of garbage along with tents, grills, coolers and chairs from the area after the 2009 tailgate party. As a result, the school tightened rules around the parties but relaxed them in 2011.
CLAIM: President Barack Obama skipped Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in 2010 to vacation and attend a BBQ in Chicago
THE FACTS: Obama attended Memorial Day services at a military cemetery in Illinois in 2010. He did not attend a barbecue that Monday as claims circulating on Facebook suggest. According to coverage by media outlets, Obama spent the early afternoon of Memorial Day in 2010 honoring fallen soldiers at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. While there, Obama placed a wreath at a tomb in the cemetery, but his speech was canceled because of a storm. He then visited with veterans and service members at a Veterans Affairs treatment center in Hines, Illinois. Later that day, Obama returned to the nation’s capital, where he delivered a speech to dozens of troops at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Obama did attend a friend’s Saturday barbecue in Chicago during the holiday weekend. He was in Louisiana on Friday to view the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
CLAIM: Regular gas costs $9.40 a gallon in Death Valley, California.
THE FACTS: California gas prices are the highest in the country right now, but they aren’t that high. A photo shared on social media that shows a Chevron gas station sign with regular unleaded gasoline priced at $9.40 per gallon is manipulated. G. Dan Mitchell, a California photographer, told media outlets in an email that he took the photo several years ago and altered it as an April Fools’ Day prank. As gas prices climbed in the state this month, social media users resurfaced the image and paired it with claims that tied higher gas prices to a 12-cent gas tax increase that was implemented in November 2017. Mitchell told media outlets that regular gas was around $4 a gallon in 2011 when he captured the image at a Death Valley gas station. He manipulated the photo to show a price of $9.40 a gallon and posted it to his professional photography website eight years ago on April 1. The gas station he photographed is “notorious for having some of the priciest gas in California,” Mitchell said. He said he did not approve republication of the image on social media. Oil refinery issues in the state have caused gas prices to spike recently, said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, which tracks fuel pricing. As of Friday morning, the highest price in recent days was $5.25 per gallon, DeHaan said
CLAIM: Video is the official trailer for the movie sequel “Beetlejuice II.”
THE FACTS: Warner Bros. did not release a trailer for a sequel to director Tim Burton’s 1988 cult classic, “Beetlejuice,” which featured Michael Keaton. Candice McDonough, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros., told media outlets in an email that the company has not released a film trailer for a “Beetlejuice” sequel, and has no “Beetlejuice II” project in active development. A short video circulating online pieces together clips featuring actors from the original film, including Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. The trailer has been circulating for at least a year. The movie is about a couple who dies in a car accident and haunts their old home. The film has been adapted for the stage. The musical, “Beetlejuice: The Musical,” had its official opening this month on Broadway.
CLAIM: The man accused of throwing a boy over a balcony at the Mall of America was born with a Muslim name, but later changed it to Emmanuel Aranda.
THE FACTS: The man charged in the case was born Emmanuel Aranda, according to Cook County birth records. Social media posts attempt to portray Aranda as Muslim by falsely claiming he was born Abdisaid Mohamed. Prosecutors have charged Aranda with attempted first-degree murder after he was arrested April 12 for throwing a 5-year-old boy from a balcony at the Mall of America, a Minneapolis-area tourist attraction. False Facebook posts say he is a Somali immigrant or legally changed his name to Aranda but birth records show he was born in August 1994 at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. No name changes have been made to the record, James Scalzitti, the director of communications at the Cook County Clerk’s Office, told media outlets in an email. Records also show Aranda was issued a social security card in his birth name. Bloomington Police, who investigated the mall case, have no information to indicate Aranda has used another name, said Deputy Police Chief Mike Hartley. “We don’t have an alias for him and certainly not that one,” Hartley told media outlets. Aranda’s religious affiliation has not been disclosed. The boy who was thrown from the balcony is recovering in a Minnesota hospital.