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California governor did not violate his stay-at-home order

May 21, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been defying his own stay-at-home order and fleeing to Montana.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The governor has not left the state since the stay-at-home order was issued.

THE FACTS: Posts claiming the governor fled to Montana date back to at least May 5, with one post suggesting that a comment on the governor’s Instagram was proof he was shopping in the Bitterroot Valley without a mask.

“Did you and your family enjoy being in Bitterroot Valley Montana last weekend?” a screenshot of a comment on Instagram shared to Facebook said. “What’s wrong with staying in the state you have locked down.”

The falsehood gained traction this week with posts featuring a photo of the governor receiving thousands of likes.

“I am Gavin Newsom. I ordered California to stay home, no trips or vacations this summer. I decided to take a family vacation to Montana this weekend. Do as I say, not as I do,” the posts said.

The governor’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that he has not left the state throughout his order.

“The Governor and his family have been in California for the duration of the pandemic,” Nathan Click, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email.

The parents of Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, do own a ranch in Montana. The couple was married there in 2008. A photo provided to the AP shows Newsom and his wife on their wedding day posing on the banks of the Bitterroot River on the ranch.

Newsom has held press conferences on May 6, May 14 and May 18 in California.

“He wasn’t in Montana to our knowledge,” Erin Loranger, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s press secretary, said in an email.

Newsom first issued his stay-home-order on March 19. The governor announced Monday that he would be relaxing the order. He said that counties would need to ask for state approval for restaurants to allow dining in and he suggested that it would be a few weeks before people could get haircuts.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said. “We’re going to start seeing a lot more activity, let’s just make sure we do it thoughtfully and very, very strategically.”

It’s not the first time misinformation has swirled around a Democratic governor’s whereabouts during the pandemic. False posts also surfaced around Gov. Ralph Northam escaping to North Carolina in April.

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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.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536