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Posts spread false claim about Disney CEO

March 18, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: The CEO of The Walt Disney Company has been arrested for human trafficking in California.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There is no record of any such arrest related to Bob Chapek, the company’s CEO, in federal databases, nor with authorities whose jurisdiction covers his Southern California residence. The claim was first shared by a conservative blog that labels some of its content as “satire.”

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing the baseless claim that the head of The Walt Disney Company was arrested this week at his home in California as part of a human trafficking investigation.

The claim first emerged in a blog post by Vancouver Times, a site that has published fabricated stories, and includes a disclaimer that says: “We write satirical stories about issues that affect conservatives.”

The article erroneously stated that Chapek had been charged with multiple felonies and released on bail ahead of a court appearance.

The blog provided no evidence for its claims and did not respond to a request for comment.

According to federal records, Chapek’s residence is under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Jeff Walker of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force confirmed to The Associated Press that his office had not made any human trafficking arrests related to Chapek.

Additionally, a federal database search returned no such records.

Still, the article has been widely shared on social media among people who presented it as true.

A now-suspended Twitter account shared the post on Thursday, stating that the article proved: “The CEO of Disney was arrested, and not one MSM outlet is reporting on it!”

The tweet was shared nearly 8,000 times, receiving more than 17,000 likes in just over a day before Twitter removed it for being “in violation of our rules.” Links to the tweet now direct to a message that states: “This Tweet is from a suspended account.”

Screenshots of the tweet were still circulating online Friday, as were links to the blog.

The Walt Disney Company did not provide comment on the claims in the article.

The erroneous blog post was published after authorities in Florida announced that 108 people were arrested during an investigation into sex crimes there. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a Wednesday news conference that four people who had worked for Disney were among those arrested, and that the suspects’ roles included a lifeguard at a resort, a food service worker at a theme park and two people in information technology-related positions.

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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.