In what was easily President Donald Trump’s worst weeks ever, fake news stories still ruled social media including tales of Robert Mueller’s investigation costing taxpayers over $50 million and Elizabeth Warren pushing for a $22 per hour minimum wage while not paying her interns. All fake along with plenty of other stories many people believed to be true.
Here are the real facts behind these fake news stories:
CLAIM: Special counsel Robert Mueller has spent over $50 million in taxpayer funds investigating Russian election interference.
THE FACTS: The special counsel’s investigation has not come close to spending $50 million, according to the most recent Justice Department reports, which were released in December. According to the reports, the investigation had cost just over $25 million as of September 2018. False claims on the cost of the investigation have circulated on social media in the past and resurfaced after President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified Wednesday before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Trump has also spread false information on the amount spent on the investigation, first tweeting in November that the investigation had cost about $40 million and following up a few days later with a tweet that said the total was $30 million. Mueller has charged 34 people in relation to the investigation.
CLAIM: Sen. Elizabeth Warren supports minimum wage of $22 an hour; does not pay her interns.
THE FACTS: Sen. Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, did not call for the minimum wage to be $22 an hour, as posts circulating on social media suggest. At a March 2013 Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing, she discussed the findings of a study that showed if minimum wage had been tied to productivity between 1960 and 2013, it would be $22 an hour. The senator from Massachusetts supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and is a co-sponsor of legislation that would require that increase by 2024, according to Ashley Woolheater, her Senate press secretary. After 2024, the legislation ties minimum wage adjustments to increases in U.S. median income. As for paying interns, Warren’s office pays $15 an hour to interns who do not receive funding from a university or outside program, Woolheater said.
CLAIM: Video purports to show Indian Air Force fighter jets attacking militants this week in Balakot, Pakistan.
THE FACTS: A video said to show an airstrike against militants in Balakot, Pakistan, is being misrepresented in social media posts. The video was created from the military simulation video game “Arma 2,” according to makers of the game. It shows missiles and bombs being fired from an aerial gunner’s perspective at what appears to be groups of militants in a small town. “This video was made by one of our players,” said Korneel van’t Land, brand manager at Bohemia Interactive, which created the Arma game series. Van’t Land said the games can be adapted by players to create their own scenarios. The video began spreading on social media this week after Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan making what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants blamed for a Feb. 14 suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops. A representative from the Indian Air Force did not return repeated calls and emails from media outlets.
CLAIM: Photo purports to show President Trump incorrectly saluting the flag during the national anthem.
THE FACTS: A false image appearing to show President Donald Trump incorrectly placing his left hand over the right side of his chest at an event is circulating on social media. The photo, which includes the comment “this is the leader of the free world … it still hasn’t sunk in,” has been reversed. The original photo of Trump, in a dark suit and yellow tie and standing next to his wife Melania Trump, shows his hand was placed properly over his heart, which Americans traditionally do during the “Pledge of Allegiance” and the playing of the national anthem. The photo was taken Jan. 5, 2014, at the Trump Invitational Grand Prix at the president’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Two separate photos — one from Getty Images and one from the Palm Beach Post — show the president was saluting the flag correctly.
CLAIM: Bravo greenlights reality show with restaurateur B. Smith, her husband and his girlfriend
THE FACTS: Bravo says it has not given approval to a reality television show starring former model and restaurateur B. Smith, her husband and his girlfriend, despite reports circulating online. Smith, 69, whose first name is Barbara, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. Her husband and business partner, Dan Gasby, recently revealed that his girlfriend, Alex Lerner, was spending a significant amount of time at their East Hampton home, creating an uproar on social media. Then came false reports of plans for a reality television show. Online petitions began circulating on the website Change.org under the headlines including “Tell Bravo not to air B. Smith show” and “Say NO to B. Smith Reality Show.” Bravo confirmed in an email Tuesday to media outlets that there is no show in development. Gasby also knocked down the reports. “The story is false,” he said in a statement to media outlets. Smith was in the limelight for decades, first gracing the cover of magazines as a top model, then as a restaurateur and lifestyle maven, before the progressive disease began to affect her memory and behavior. She and Gasby, who have been married for more than 20 years, have been open about the challenges of living with Alzheimer’s.
CLAIM: Photo purports to show a U.S. woman who joined the Islamic State beheading a man.
THE FACTS: A photo of a person dressed in camouflage and wearing a black headdress performing a beheading is not Hoda Muthana, the Alabama woman who left the U.S. in 2014 to join the Islamic State group in Syria, as false reports circulating on social media claim. The photo, which was taken from a video released by IS in 2015, shows a child in Homs, Syria, beheading a Syrian army captain, Adam Raisman, chief senior analyst for the SITE Intelligence Group, said in an email to media outlets. Mia Bloom, a professor of communication at Georgia State University and author of “Small Arms: Children and Terrorism,” said the video shows one of earliest instances of a child trained by IS attempting to perform a beheading. “It is definitely not Hoda,” Bloom said. The photo began circulating widely this week after Muthana asked if she could return to the U.S. with her son. Muthana’s attorney Hassan Shibly told media outlets that the photo was fake. “It is sad that people are so blinded by hate that they have to refer to fake news to further sensationalize what is a very straightforward case,” Shibly said. U.S. officials have denied her request to return.
CLAIM: Black-and-white photo shows Bernie Sanders being arrested after racist attack.
THE FACTS: A Chicago Tribune photo of a young Bernie Sanders being arrested in August 1963 is being misrepresented on social media. The false reports claim that he was arrested after racist attacks against civil rights protesters. However, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune, the photo was taken as Sanders was arrested during protests over “Willis wagons,” which were mobile classrooms that were installed to ease overcrowding in black schools. The aluminum trailers, named after the Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Benjamin C. Willis, who devised the plan, were seen as perpetuating segregation. In the photo, Sanders is crouching down as two police officers hold his arms to remove him from the protest. According to the Tribune, Sanders was charged with resisting arrest, found guilty and fined $25. The 1960s photo emerged during Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign when questions arose over his civil rights activities. It resurfaced with false captions after he announced his 2020 candidacy on Feb. 19.