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Farmworker union’s flag was backdrop for Jill Biden speech

April 1, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: First lady Jill Biden gave a speech with the Nazi flag in the background.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The first lady gave a speech in front of the United Farm Workers’ flag, which features a black eagle surrounded by a white circle on a red background.

THE FACTS: On Wednesday, Biden made a visit to The Forty Acres, the first headquarters of the United Farm Workers labor union, in Delano, Calif. The location is now a vaccination site and she urged farmworkers to receive the COVID-19 shot.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom, farmworkers and volunteers joined Biden to celebrate the state holiday honoring the UFW leader, César Chávez, who died in 1993. During her visit, Biden gave a speech with the UFW flag as the backdrop. Multiple social media users falsely accused Biden of making a speech in front of a Nazi flag.

“I don’t know if there are words to fully convey how hilarious it is that ‘Dr’ Jill Biden butchered the Spanish language while giving a speech in front of a Nazi flag,” said one Twitter user.

Lauren Araiza, an associate professor who teaches history at Denison University, called the effort to draw similarities between the eagle used on the UFW flag and the one associated with the Nazis “ridiculous.”

“It’s based on the Aztec eagle, and they made it stylized in that way because they wanted a graphic that anybody could draw and then it would be easily printable,” said Araiza, author of the book, “To March for Others: The Black Freedom Struggle and the United Farm Workers.”

She said the eagle on the red and black flag was something Mexican Americans could easily relate to.

The flag was created in the 1960s by Chávez’s brother, Richard Chávez, and his cousin, Manuel Chávez.

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The union’s website includes a quote from Chávez explaining the flag’s design: “A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride…When people see it they know it means dignity.”

In addition to red and black being eye-catching colors, the tone of red used in the flag was inexpensive for printers, Araiza explained.

“These people are just trying to use scare tactics to delegitimize the president and first lady’s open support of the UFW and, by extension, all Mexican Americans,” Araiza said.

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, a professor of history at Fairfield University, who specializes in the history of Nazi Germany, also knocked down the claims.

“One source of subtle confusion may be the fact that many Nazi flags featured an eagle with a swastika, the latter being a very geometric shape; the UFW flag also features a very geometrically rendered Aztec-style eagle that could evoke the geometric aspects of a swastika,” Rosenfeld said in an email. “But of course, there’s no swastika on the UFW whatsoever.”

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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