NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
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 real facts:
CLAIM: Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads for his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. The U.S. population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over.
THE FACTS: While Bloomberg did spend at least $500 million nationally on television, radio and digital ads, the figures circulating on social media don’t add up. The claim was made in a tweet posted by journalist Mekita Rivas on Super Tuesday and shared widely: “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. The U.S. population is 327 million. He could have given each American $1 million and still have money left over. I feel like a $1 million check would be life-changing for most people. Yet he wasted it all on ads and STILL LOST.” A check of the numbers, however, showed that each American would actually get about $1.53. Bloomberg, one of the wealthiest people in the country, dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Wednesday, following a disappointing show in Super Tuesday races. He has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. The amount he spent on the race has come under criticism. Mara Gay, a member of The New York Times editorial board, highlighted the numbers in Rivas’ tweet during a segment Thursday with Brian Williams on MSNBC. “It’s true, it’s disturbing. It does suggest what we’re talking about here, which is there is too much money in politics,” Gay said. On Friday, Gay acknowledged the mistake, tweeting that she would be “buying a calculator.” Williams’ show, The 11th Hour, tweeted a correction and apologized early Friday morning. “Tonight on the air we quoted a tweet that relied on bad math,” the account said. “We corrected the error after the next commercial break and have removed it from later editions of tonight’s program. We apologize for the error.” Rivas, who made the claim, added a comment on her Twitter bio to address the tweet: “I know, I’m bad at math.”
CLAIM: Vice President Mike Pence shook hands with potential coronavirus victim.
THE FACTS: Pence did not meet or shake hands with a student who was later observed for possible infection with new coronavirus. During an event on Friday, Feb. 28, the vice president met with cadets from the Sarasota Military Academy in Florida for a fundraiser. On Monday, the academy posted on Facebook that a student from the school in Sarasota and his mother were quarantined after possible exposure to the new coronavirus. “One of our students and his mother are currently quarantined as a precautionary measure due to the mother’s contact with a patient at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota in her professional role,” the March 2 Facebook post stated. That student, however, was not at the event. Still, the announcement led to false posts stating that Pence had possibly been exposed to the virus by shaking hands during the visit. “Warned by the CDC not to shake hands, Pence, the coronavirus czar, shakes hands with 44 cadets. One of those cadets is quarantined for possible coronavirus. Pence needs to be quarantined. Seriously!” a user tweeted on March 3. “Potential #CoronaVirus patient shakes hands with @VP,” tweeted another. The Vice President’s Press Secretary Kate Miller responded on Twitter to clarify that Pence never met with the student, “Can we all take a deep breath? @Mike_Pence did not meet or come into contact at all with this student.” Christina Bowman, the executive director of the school, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press that the student was not at the event and therefore did not shake hands with Pence.
CLAIM: President Barack Obama waited until October 2009 to declare a national health emergency amid the H1N1 pandemic after 20,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized and more than 1,000 had died.
THE FACTS: Obama declared a public health emergency in April 2009, after roughly 20 cases of the flu strain, more commonly known as swine flu, emerged in the U.S. He declared a national emergency in October 2009. Social media posts are falsely claiming that the former president waited months to respond with a public health emergency declaration to the flu strain known as H1N1. The posts are conflating two types of emergency declarations a president can make. Obama declared a public health emergency on April 26, 2009 — before a single swine flu death in the U.S. was reported. Such a declaration allows the government to unlock money for antiviral drugs and other medical preparedness measures. By April 29, Obama had requested Congress approve a $1.5 billion emergency funding package to combat the pandemic, The Associated Press reported at the time. It was in October, after 1,000 U.S. deaths, that Obama made another declaration related to the flu strain, this time a national emergency. That national emergency allowed the U.S. to activate operational plans, such as moving emergency rooms offsite to keep those infected with the virus away from other emergency room patients. Obama’s critics have mixed up claims about his response to the swine flu before. Last year, after Trump was criticized for declaring a national emergency at the border, Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, wrongly claimed that Obama overreached with such declarations during his time in office because he announced a national emergency in 2009 before a “single case” had been reported in the U.S. In fact, swine flu cases were active in 46 states when Obama made the declaration. Trump’s administration declared a public health emergency related to the coronavirus on Jan. 31.
CLAIM: Hand sanitizer will do nothing to protect you from the new coronavirus.
THE FACTS: Hand sanitizer containing more than 60% alcohol is effective against the new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social media users widely circulated a tweet Sunday that suggested hand sanitizer would not have any impact against preventing coronavirus. The claim surfaced amid news reports that hand sanitizer was in short supply due to concerns about the virus. While using soap and water are the best method to help protect against the coronavirus, hand sanitizer will also get the job done, said Dr. Anna Sick-Samuels, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University. Sick-Samuels said the alcohol in hand sanitizers disrupts the outer layer of bacteria and viruses and breaks them down. Health officials say hand sanitizer must contain around 60 to 95 percent alcohol for it to be effective, including against the new coronavirus that has sickened more than 92,000 people. “Perhaps some of the misconception comes from products that are marketed as a hand sanitizer but might not fall into the group of alcohol-based hand rubs,” Sick-Samuels said, discussing why people might say it is not effective against the new virus.
CLAIM: Sen. Chuck Schumer deleted a tweet saying President Trump’s travel ban to China is “an excuse to further his ongoing war against immigrants.”
THE FACTS: The tweet, made to appear it came from Schumer’s verified account, was fabricated. It circulated on social media as a screenshot of a purported Feb. 5th statement from the Senate minority leader that criticized Trump’s coronavirus travel ban. “The premature travel ban to and from China by the current administration is just an excuse to further his ongoing war against immigrants. There must be a check and balance on these restrictions,” the false tweet stated. A number of people on Twitter falsely claimed that Schumer deleted the tweet. Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Schumer, confirmed to the AP in an email that the tweet was fabricated. “He never tweeted it in the first place and therefore could not have deleted it.” A screen capture of Schumer’s Twitter page from Feb. 5 on the Wayback Machine, an internet archive, shows no such tweet. In addition, the tweet is not listed on ProPublica’s archive of Schumer’s deleted tweets.
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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