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 facts:
NRA not formed to defend African Americans against KKK
CLAIM: Juneteenth is “the day Republicans freed slaves from Democrat slave owners.” Shortly after, “the NRA was formed to help Black people defend themselves against the Democrats’ Ku Klux Klan.”
THE FACTS: The NRA was not formed to help Black people defend themselves against the klan. Rather, it began as an organization to improve marksmanship among members of the New York National Guard after the Civil War. Enslaved people were freed by the Union Army, not a political party. The false claims circulated after President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, making June 19 a federal holiday. The holiday marks the date Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, it could not be enforced in many places until after the end of the Civil War in 1865. The passage of the act created extensive conversation on social media, which included historical misinformation. A post falsely claiming a relationship between the formation of the NRA and enslaved Black people circulated on Facebook and Twitter following the June 17 signing of the bill. According to reporting by the AP, the KKK was created by Confederate veterans, not the Democratic Party. “The KKK was a guerrilla terrorist organization. So to talk about the KKK in terms of open party affiliation doesn’t make a lot of sense because we’re talking about a different kind of entity all together,” said Joseph Lowndes, professor of political science at the University of Oregon. “There were Democrats in the South who were supportive of the KKK. And there are Democrats who weren’t. The NRA was also not formed to help defend Black people against the KKK. “The National Rifle Association was formed in New York City in 1871, by a group of former Union Army officers and veterans. They formed the NRA in order to improve marksmanship skills among the New York National Guard in anticipation of future wars,” said Frank Smyth, author of “The NRA: The Unauthorized History.” “They had nothing to do with the KKK or freed slaves.” Smyth added that NRA co-founder William Conan Church, in his book “Ulysses S. Grant and the Period of National Preservation and Reconstruction,” never mentioned the NRA helping or arming freed slaves who were being abused and killed during Reconstruction. It also isn’t historically accurate to claim that Republicans “freed slaves from Democrat slave owners.” “It was the Union Army, not the Republican Party, that freed slaves from the Confederate States of America. It was not a Republican versus Democrat thing,” Lowndes said. “The Republican and Democratic parties ceased to function within the rebelling states. And there were plenty of Democrats who fought in their Union Army to end slavery as well.” Furthermore, the Republican Party of today bears little resemblance to the one that originated in the North in 1854. “The idea of Republicans being the party of Black equality is only true if you get in a time capsule and go back 100 years or more,” says Lowndes. “After the Civil War, the Democratic Party was the dominant party in the South and represented the maintenance of the Jim Crow segregationist political order. But after 1964, white Southern Democrats switched parties.”
Video manipulated to make it look like Thunberg denied climate change
CLAIM: Video shows Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg arguing that climate change isn’t real.
THE FACTS: Teenage climate crusader Greta Thunberg hasn’t flipped her position on climate change, but a manipulated video that circulated widely on Instagram this week was edited to make it look that way. In the clip, MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan asks Thunberg how she would respond if the president asked her how to address climate change. Thunberg responds that she would tell him nothing, because that wouldn’t be democratic, and she wouldn’t want an elected leader to do anything without voter support. “So I would just tell him to tell the situation as it is,” Thunberg says. The camera appears to jump slightly, and Thunberg continues: “Since the climate crisis doesn’t exist, how can we expect people to want climate action?” Instagram users shared the clip with captions claiming Thunberg called the climate crisis “a HOAX” and “speaks out in a different way than she used to about climate change.” However, the edited clip cuts out a key part of the interview that reveals Thunberg’s point was to emphasize the severity of the crisis, not diminish it. In the original March 7 interview, after explaining that she wouldn’t want an elected leader to act without voter support, Thunberg said world leaders should convey the seriousness of the crisis to their constituents. “So, what we need now is to raise awareness and to create public opinion,” she said. “To treat the crisis like a crisis. Because if people are not aware of the crisis that we face, of course they won’t put pressure on the elected leaders. So I would just tell him to tell the situation as it is. Because, I mean yes, you could say… I meet with a lot of world leaders and they say, ‘I can’t do anything because I don’t have the support from voters.’ Well how can you expect support and pressure from voters if you are not treating the crisis like a crisis? Since the climate crisis doesn’t exist, how can we expect people to want climate action?”
Texas heat didn’t melt wind turbine
CLAIM: Photo shows a wind turbine that melted in the Texas heat.
THE FACTS: Recent damage to a wind turbine in southeastern Texas was not related to heat, according to a spokesperson for RWE Renewables, which operates the turbine. The company is investigating how the damage occurred, with a recent storm being one potential cause. A photo of the wind turbine with its blades slumped toward its base circulated widely on Facebook and Twitter this week, with social media users claiming a heat wave across the Southwest was responsible. “Current wave of heat melts a wind turbine in Texas,” wrote one Facebook user in a post viewed more than 50,000 times. The image does show real damage to a turbine in Matagorda County south of Houston, but high Texas temperatures didn’t cause it to fail. “The damage to the turbine was definitely NOT related to heat or high temperatures,” RWE Communication Manager Matt Tulis said in an email to The Associated Press. “We did have damage to one of the turbines on our project in Matagorda County, Texas, potentially resulting from a storm last week. Our onsite team is evaluating the cause and extent of the damage to the one turbine affected.” The local branch of the National Weather Service on June 14 tweeted that the turbine’s failure was related to wind from a storm that passed through the area that day, but a meteorologist with the agency told the AP on Monday that he couldn’t say that for certain. “There was a thunderstorm but it didn’t look particularly severe,” said meteorologist Dan Reilly. “It’s been hot, but not unusually so for south Texas.” Some social media users speculated that a lightning strike could have caused the damage. Tulis said his team hadn’t ruled out that possibility.
Immigration quote comes from Sen. John Kennedy, not JFK
CLAIM: Former President John F. Kennedy said, “There are people in Washington, D.C., in positions of power to whom the border is just a nuisance. And I think some of them believe that illegal immigration is a moral good. It is not.”
THE FACTS: The quote comes from Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, not the former president. A Facebook post from the Standing for Freedom Center at Liberty University this week mixed up two very different John Kennedys: a Democratic former president and a Republican sitting senator. The post, which was later taken down, featured a quote rebuking people who view the border as a “nuisance” and think it is a “moral good” to allow people to live the United States without legal permission. Beside the quote, it showed a picture of the former president who was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, while in Dallas, Texas. In fact, the quote belongs to the other John Kennedy, who made the remarks on Fox News in 2019, when then-President Donald Trump was preparing to unveil a new immigration proposal.
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