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:


Biden policies did not lead to thousands of Shell layoffs

CLAIM: Shell is eliminating 9,000 jobs because of President Joe Biden.

THE FACTS: A post circulating on Facebook falsely links Shell layoffs to the Biden administration. “Shell oil laying off 9000 workers Thanks Biden,” states the false post. But energy producer Royal Dutch Shell announced in September, before Biden was even elected, that the company would cut up to 9,000 jobs worldwide. At the time, Shell said that around 1,500 employees had agreed to take voluntary redundancy. The cuts follow a drop in oil demand during the pandemic. The false posts emerged weeks after Biden signed an executive order his first day in office revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, halting construction. The 1,700-mile pipeline was planned to carry roughly 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Biden’s executive order cited economic and climate reasons for revoking the permit. Keystone XL President Richard Prior said over 1,000 jobs, the majority unionized, will be eliminated in the coming weeks. “The assertion that Shell is eliminating jobs as a result of moves made by the Biden administration is inaccurate,” Anna Arata, a spokesperson for Shell, told the AP in an email. Arata further stated that “up to 9,000 positions would be eliminated as part of a broader effort to reduce costs, simplify the company’s structure and accelerate investments in lower-carbon energy products.”

— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.


Video taken election night doesn’t show illegal activity in Detroit

CLAIM: Newly discovered video from election night at the TCF Center in Detroit shows tens of thousands of illegal ballots were delivered eight hours after the deadline.

THE FACTS: The video doesn't show anything illicit. It shows the city delivering legal ballots to be counted, as expected. The conservative website The Gateway Pundit is using a new video to recycle old misinformation about Michigan’s presidential election. In an article published Feb. 5, it spins a tale of fraudulent ballots delivered in the early hours of the morning the day after the election. The article quotes Michigan resident Shane Trejo, a writer for the right-leaning website Big League Politics, who claims to have witnessed “thousands of ballots” being delivered to the TCF Center at 3:30 a.m. “well after the 8:00 p.m. deadline for ballots to show up.” The article also claims to show “proof of the fraud” on film, sharing a seven-minute video of testimony from Michigan residents clipped together with footage of a white van delivering ballots to the TCF Center for counting early in the morning. But this article and video don’t show proof of fraud. Contrary to Trejo’s claims, the 8 p.m. deadline on Election Day was for voters to cast their ballots, not for those ballots to be delivered or counted. In big cities such as Detroit, it is customary for ballots to be processed at clerk offices before they are sent to counting boards, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office explained on her website. “

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Semora, North Carolina, contributed this report.


Fox News did air parts of ceremony for officer who died after Capitol riot

CLAIM: While television networks such as CNN and MSNBC broadcast live coverage of the Feb. 2 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda honoring slain U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, Fox News ignored the ceremony entirely.

THE FACTS: Fox News did not air the entire ceremony for Sicknick live on its main cable channel, but two of its hosts briefly cut to the event. Fox News also streamed the ceremony for Sicknick, who died after defending the Capitol during the insurrection on Jan. 6, live on its Facebook page and YouTube channel. On the evening on Feb. 2, President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and a handful of other congressional leaders paid their respects as Sicknick lay in honor in the building he died trying to protect. In the days following the ceremony, social media users criticized Fox News, claiming the network skipped coverage of Sicknick’s memorial while other news channels carried the proceedings live. “Fox News ignored the ceremony entirely," read a widely shared post from the left-leaning Facebook page Meidas Touch. "Disgraceful.” The claim also circulated widely on TikTok. But the posts are misleading. A review of Fox News programming from the time of the event shows the network cut to live footage of the ceremony at least twice, once as Fox News host Sean Hannity handed off coverage to host Laura Ingraham, and again later in Ingraham’s show. Host Shannon Bream, whose show airs after Ingraham’s, also mentioned the ceremony. Unlike some networks, Fox News didn’t spend a lot of time covering the ceremony live on its main cable news channel, and several social media users and journalists criticized the network for that. However, it is false to claim Fox News ignored the event entirely. A representative for Fox News confirmed the claims were false.

— Ali Swenson


Photo appearing to show Biden asleep in Oval Office is fake

CLAIM: Photo shows President Joe Biden asleep in his seat at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office with a stack of executive orders in front of him.

THE FACTS: A photo that appears to show the newly inaugurated president asleep at his desk is fabricated. Facebook users shared the altered image this week as part of a larger post criticizing the president’s age and work ethic. “AMERICA IN DECLINE,” read the original post, which was screen-grabbed and shared thousands of times on Facebook. “This decrepit old grifter works MAYBE five hours a day. We traded in a work horse, for someone that belonged out to pasture or sent to the glue factory a long time ago. Nothing says we threw in the towel better than this nauseating image, the ‘commander in chief’ can’t even stay awake.” The image makes it look like Biden was asleep at his desk in the Oval Office on his first day as president, with a stack of executive orders beside him. However, a closer look reveals the photo is a composite image, with an old photo superimposed onto a recent one. Biden’s body and the background in the post match AP images from Biden’s first day in office, when he signed a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Numerous photos and videos from that event confirm that Biden was awake — and wearing a black face covering — during the signing process. Biden’s head in the post comes from a 2011 photo where he appears to briefly doze off as former President Barack Obama delivered a speech on the national debt.

— Ali Swenson


Photo of Tampa mayor was not taken at Super Bowl

CLAIM: Photo shows Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was not wearing a mask at the Super Bowl.

THE FACTS: Social media users are falsely claiming a photo of Castor without a mask was taken on Feb. 7 at the Super Bowl, when it was actually taken last fall at the same stadium. Jeremy Rex, a spokesperson for the mayor, confirmed the photo was taken on Sept. 30 at Raymond James Stadium during a Stanley Cup celebration for the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. Ahead of the football championship, Castor had signed an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings at Super Bowl festivities or face fines of up to $500, according to AP reporting. Those who attended the game were mandated to wear masks, except when eating or drinking. Social media posts about Castor this week also misinterpreted a statement she made at a Feb. 8 news conference to mean she was taking law enforcement action against fans who didn't wear masks, something her office denies. “Breaking: At a press conference Monday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said that maskless fans at the Super Bowl will be ‘identified’ by law enforcement and that police will ‘handle’ the situation,” reads a Twitter post that shared an edited video of Castor’s press conference. The clip had over 1 million views by Thursday evening. Social media users accused Castor of being a hypocrite and shared the months-old photo of her without a face covering, falsely stating the photo showed her at the Super Bowl. An Instagram post shared a screenshot of Castor at the press conference, along with the September photo of her with the caption: “Mayor of Tampa will be prosecuting maskless fans from the Super Bowl. Yet....” The misunderstanding came after a reporter asked Castor about post-Super Bowl festivities that required law enforcement intervention. The reporter began the question by stating, “I did see pretty bad things on the street,” and then asked the mayor to comment on the fact that, “officers had to disperse really large crowds that were not wearing masks.” Castor responded: “Those few bad actors will be identified and the Tampa police department will handle it.” Rex clarified the mayor’s comments to the AP. “Regarding Mayor Castor’s comments during that press conference, Tampa Police are working to identify people who destroyed street signs and property during Super Bowl celebrations NOT people who failed to wear a mask,” he said in an email.


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