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Posts spread fake Atlantic headline on economy under Biden

July 30, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: The Atlantic magazine published a story with the headline, “The Quiet Courage of Biden’s Negative Growth Economy.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Atlantic did not publish such an article and an image purporting to show a screenshot of the headline has been fabricated, a spokesperson for the publication confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: A day after the U.S. Commerce Department’s latest quarterly gross domestic product report showed the nation’s economy had shrunk for a second straight quarter, a falsified screenshot of an Atlantic story riffing on the subject began raising eyebrows on social media.

The format and font shown in the fake screenshot is meant to mimic the outlet’s flagship email newsletter, “The Atlantic Daily.” “In an era of unchecked economic prosperity, one man had the moxie to pump the brakes — to save us from ourselves,” the text below the headline reads, alongside the byline “Tim Nichols.” One iteration, posted Friday afternoon on Instagram, had accrued more than 2,500 likes as of Friday night.

Many sharing and commenting suggested the screenshot showed a genuine article from the outlet, but it is not a real story.

An advanced Google search failed to surface any Atlantic article or newsletter entry containing that sentence, nor did it find any Atlantic item describing “Biden’s negative growth economy.” An article titled “The Quiet Courage of Bob Moses,” attributed to a different author, ran in July of 2021, but no other related headlines appear on the site.

“This image is fabricated, and is not an actual Atlantic article,” Anna Bross, senior vice president of communications for The Atlantic, told The Associated Press on Friday in an email. “We are reporting this as fake and as a trademark infringement.”

Another falsified Atlantic screenshot using the same format circulated on social media last month.

Bross also confirmed that there is no Atlantic author with the name “Tim Nichols.” In the screenshot, the letter ‘i’ in “Tim Nichols” appears to be in a slightly different font.

Tom Nichols, who writes The Atlantic’s “Peacefield” newsletter, also told the AP on Friday that the screenshot was fake.

He has authored “The Atlantic Daily,” he said in a message via Twitter, but “that’s not me.”

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.