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Church bells did not ring across Paris for Joe Biden

November 8, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows church bells ringing out in Paris on Saturday to celebrate Democratic candidate Joe Biden winning the United States presidential election. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The bells were not related to the U.S. presidential race, the Paris diocese confirmed to The Associated Press. 

THE FACTS: On Saturday, as foreign leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron congratulated Biden on his presidential win, social media users began to claim religious institutions in Paris were celebrating the election results.

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“BELLS ringing across Paris!” read a tweet featuring a video viewed more than 1.4 million times. “The world has been watching.” The video showed a dark sky in Paris with bell sounds in the background. 

Americans seized on the false claim as well. A Facebook post with the claim from the popular Facebook page Occupy Democrats was shared more than 10,000 times. Saturday Night Live Weekend Update host Colin Jost joked, “Do you know how bad you have to be for Paris to ring church bells when you lose?”

However, both the Paris Diocese and the Diocese of Nanterre, a Paris suburb, confirmed to the AP that their churches did not ring their bells for Biden. Instead, any church bells heard in the greater Paris area on Saturday evening were likely calls to prayer.

The French government banned most religious services this week as part of a renewed lockdown amid rising COVID-19 cases, the Diocese of Nanterre explained in a statement. However, some churches still had their bells automatically programmed to call worshippers to Saturday evening Mass.

“This is the case for the bells of the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Meudon, which can be seen and heard in a video shared on social media by a resident of the city,” the diocese said. “As every Saturday evening at 5:45 p.m., bells of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church in Meudon rang to announce the Mass at 6 p.m.”

The Paris diocese confirmed that religious leaders in Paris and Nanterre did not instruct churches to ring any bells in connection with the American elections.

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Some social media users also claimed that fireworks were set off in London on Saturday evening in celebration of Biden’s win. Others pointed out fireworks have been going off there for several days in celebration of the British holiday Guy Fawkes Day, which is on Nov. 5. It’s unclear whether any of the fireworks set off in London on Saturday were in response to the U.S. election.

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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