A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: Photos show the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washingon, D.C., marred by graffiti as a result of riots after the death of George Floyd.
THE FACTS: The photos circulating on social media show a Vietnam Veterans Memorial replica in Los Angeles after it was defaced in 2016. Posts featuring the misidentified photo were viewed thousands of times on social media on Wednesday, with comments expressing outrage about the damage. “The Vietnam Memorial defaced by rioters,” read one Facebook post with nearly 80,000 views. “Total disrespect! There are just no words to express my outrage. This wall honors those who gave their last measure of devotion.” “The Vietnam Memorial?! Really? Are you still for the cause?!” read another. But a reverse image search of the photos being shared online revealed they show a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Venice, Los Angeles. They also aren’t current. The graffiti pictured appeared at the Los Angeles site in 2016 and has since been scrubbed off. The Associated Press reported in 2017 on the sentencing of the man who vandalized the Los Angeles replica. He was sentenced to four years in state prison. But other monuments in the nation’s capital, including the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II memorial, have been damaged during protests following the death of George Floyd, a black resident of Minneapolis. He died after a white officer held him to the ground with his knee on his neck for several minutes, even as he said he couldn’t breathe, during an arrest on May 25.
CLAIM: Photo shows all the exterior and interior lights out at the White House on Sunday night, as President Donald Trump hid in a bunker.
THE FACTS: An image shared thousands of times online that appears to show all the lights out in and around the White House was taken before Trump even assumed office. AP photographs taken Sunday night show the front of the White House illuminated by exterior lights and the portico lantern turned on, but the mansion’s interior is dark. The viral photo, which has been edited, can be found on Getty Image’s stock website, where it was uploaded in December 2015. In the original, the lantern hanging in the White House portico is lit, along with several lights that surround the fountain in the front lawn. The edited version that is being widely shared online has been darkened, and edited to black out the lit lantern. Dozens of social media users shared the edited 2015 photo, claiming it showed the White House on Sunday night. “Lights out at #WhiteHouse is a powerful symbol,” one Twitter user wrote. Others claim it showed the White House on Sunday night as Trump took shelter in a bunker. The Associated Press reported that Secret Service agents rushed the president to a White House bunker Friday night, as hundreds of protesters surrounded the executive mansion.
CLAIM: MSNBC knowingly used footage from the movie “World War Z” and claimed it showed the current protests, to push a narrative that America is on fire.
THE FACTS: MSNBC did not use footage from “World War Z,” a 2013 movie about a virus that turns humans into zombies, in a report Sunday. A Twitter user created what was meant to be a spoof video of MSNBC coverage from protests on Sunday using a clip from “World War Z.” Alexandra Roberts, director of communications at MSNBC, confirmed in an email to AP that the video was fabricated. Posts circulating online Monday attacked the cable television station, falsely claiming they had used the movie footage to make protests in the U.S. appear worse. The manipulated video took an MSNBC report on protests Sunday and replaced the video with a clip from “World War Z.” The report actually showed protests in the U.S., including Atlanta and Philadelphia. The audio from the report and the chyron along the bottom of the report remained the same: “CURFEW IMPOSED ACROSS U.S. AS PROTESTERS HIT THE STREETS,” read the caption information under a Breaking News banner. However, on the altered video, “not real” can be found in the corner of the screen, and “bad scooter,” is just above the chyron in small font. A Twitter user who goes by Bad Scooter with the handle @OfficialSlop took credit for the video. “And I deeply apologize again, I did not expect what so ever this would spread,” the creator tweeted Monday. The altered video was shared online as an actual news report, with some social media users grabbing a photo from the movie to pair with a still photo of the fabricated MSNBC report. “#MSNBC using World War Z movie trailer as “Breaking News” footage of aftermath of riots and looting. Don’t believe all you see on TV,” said one tweet with more than 2,000 likes showing the side-by-side photos.
CLAIM: Photo shows two buses emblazoned with “Soros Riot Dance Squad” at a Milan, Michigan, gas station, offering proof that billionaire philanthropist George Soros and far-left militant groups are transporting out-of-town rioters to protests.
THE FACTS: A photo of two unmarked buses was manipulated to add the words “Soros Riot Dance Squad” to the side of each vehicle. The buses are not being used to transport people to protests; they belong to a local transportation company and are providing a local shuttle service. On Tuesday, a photo said to show two “Soros Riot Dance Squad” buses passing through a gas station in a small town near Ann Arbor, Michigan, was circulating widely on social media. Posts and articles claimed the image was proof that Soros, a Democratic donor, and anti-fascist networks were transporting militant rioters to protests from out of town. “Democrats & George Soros are Paying & Busing In White Antifa to Come Into the Communities To Incite Violence & Destruction so that The Focus isn’t on Peaceful Protest & Justice For George Floyd,” said one tweet using the photo. “It’s official, the riots are staged,” read the headline of an article about the photo on Intellihub, a website that has frequently spread false conspiracy theories. Sean Duval, the owner of Golden Limousine International, a local transportation company, confirmed the buses belong to his company, but they don’t have any writing on them. Duval also provided evidence the photo was altered — a Facebook user who appeared to be from Milan, Michigan, on Friday posted the original version of the gas station photo, which showed they were plain white buses. He said the buses pictured have a contract for a daily shuttle service to Romulus, Michigan, and were not transporting rioters to any protest. “It’s frustrating when people from the outside start instigating and try to turn American against American,” Duval said. “It is so important to not let these guys win.”
CLAIM: Photo shows a fire set at the children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
THE FACTS: The fire in the photo occurred in an empty apartment complex in Columbus on Sunday, May 31, about a mile away from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Social media posts circulating Sunday claimed the hospital was set alight during weekend protests in Columbus. “CHILDRENS HOSPITAL IN COLUMBUS OHIO SET ON FIRE DURING RIOT MAY 30,2020!” a Twitter user falsely claimed. “Y’all really did this to ‘Children Hospital,’” said one early morning Facebook post followed by two emoji broken hearts. “It’s Kids in there man…..this is a HOSPITAL.” A screenshot of the photo was also used in a false Facebook post claiming the fire broke out at a children’s hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. “UAB Children’s Hospital last night,” stated the post shared on Monday. The Children’s of Alabama Hospital confirmed on Twitter that there was no fire there. In Columbus, the apartment complex — Residences at Topiary Park — was under construction and was not occupied. A closer look at the photo posted on social media shows that the smoke was coming from behind the hospital’s building. “The building is the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion, but the fire was not on our property,” said Katelyn Hanzel, media relations specialist with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Columbus Division of Fire on Monday shared information about the fire on Facebook, confirming the apartment complex was on fire, and stating that there were no reported injuries.
CLAIM: An old photo of Adolf Hitler shows him holding up a Bible in front of a crowd, similar to how U.S. President Donald Trump held a Bible in front of a church Monday.
THE FACTS: The photo has been edited to show Hitler holding a Bible. In the original photo, Hitler is dressed in a Nazi uniform and raising his hand in response to children saluting him. The photo was taken in the 1930s by Heinrich Hoffman and is archived in Getty Images. Social media users are widely circulating that photo of Hitler, edited to show him holding a black book that people claim is a Bible. The manipulated photo is being used in posts to compare Hitler to Trump, after law enforcement forcefully cleared peaceful protests at Lafayette Park in Washington with tear gas and flash bangs on Monday. After the protesters were cleared, Trump walked from the White House Rose Garden to St. John’s Church where he stood in front of cameras and raised a black-covered Bible for reporters to see. The church was damaged in a protest fire the night before. Trump’s actions sparked bipartisan criticism, with some on social media comparing him to the Nazi dictator, using the false photo. “Spot the difference between Hitler and Trump,” one Twitter user wrote, sharing a photo of Trump with the Bible next to the manipulated image of Hitler.
CLAIM: Starbucks has a promotion offering a free Frappuccino drink of choice to anyone who goes to a Starbucks store and shouts “Black Lives Matter.”
THE FACTS: The offer is not real. The fake Starbucks promotion shows the hands of two people, one white and one black, holding up brightly colored blended coffee drinks with whipped cream on top. “We’re all in this together,” it says. “BLACK LIVES MATTER! Come to any of our stores shouting these words for a free Frappuccino of your choice. The louder you shout, the larger the size you’ll get!” Thousands of Facebook and Twitter users on Thursday shared the fake advertisement in support of the coffee chain. “This is why they get all my money,” one Facebook user wrote. “Starbucks anyone?! #BLM definitely works!” said another. However, a Starbucks spokesperson confirmed the offer is not valid and wasn’t created by the company. “Our customers may confirm any Starbucks promotion by checking the Starbucks app, reaching out to our customer care line or asking a Starbucks barista,” the company said in an emailed statement. Starbucks has made public statements in the wake of George Floyd’s death, denouncing racism and announcing plans to design anti-bias resources and training. “Black lives matter,” the company said in a tweet on Thursday. “We are committed to being a part of change.”
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.
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