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:
Troops facing away from Biden motorcade were watching for security threats
CLAIM: Troops in Washington turned their backs on President Joe Biden’s motorcade as it passed on its way to his inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.
THE FACTS: In accordance with safety protocols, some National Guard members were positioned with their backs to Biden’s motorcade as it made its way through Washington to the U.S. Capitol. But social media users are falsely suggesting a video shot by an ABC reporter shows Guard members turning their backs on Biden in a show of disrespect. “Many in the military turned their backs to Biden’s motorcade,” claimed one tweet with more than 3,000 likes that shared the footage. Another video making the false claim had more than 100,000 views on YouTube. Taking it a step further, some social media users captured a still from the video and showed it in posts alongside photos of Guard members enthusiastically greeting former President Donald Trump at an unspecified event. The video with the false claim was amplified by accounts that have supported Trump and promoted misinformation in the past. ABC reporter Ines de La Cuetara uploaded the video to Twitter on Wednesday at about 10:30 a.m. “The view from Biden’s motorcade as it made its way up to the Capitol,” she said in her caption. In the video, some Guard members can be seen facing the cars passing on the street while others have their backs turned near Robert A. Taft Memorial on Constitution Avenue. More than 26,000 Guard members from around the country were brought in to beef up security for the inauguration in the wake of the violent riots at the Capitol. The AP confirmed with the National Guard Bureau that Guard members had their backs turned to monitor all possible threats, in keeping with safety protocol. During Trump’s inauguration, authorities could be seen both with their backs facing and turned away from his motorcade. “These National Guardsmen were on duty with a mission to protect the president against potential threats. Some are facing out to ensure the safety of all,” said Darla Torres, a spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau.
CLAIM: When Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn into office on Wednesday, she placed a black clutch purse on top of the Bible so she wouldn’t have to touch the holy book.
THE FACTS: Harris rested her hand on a Bible stacked on another Bible as she was sworn into office. But on Thursday, social media users were sharing a photo from Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony along with false claims that Harris avoided touching the Bible during her oath of office. The photo showed Harris with her right hand up and her left hand resting on an unidentified black item, reciting her oath of office. The black item rested on top of a thick Bible, both held by Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff. “She couldn’t even bring herself to touch that Bible,” read one Facebook post viewed more than 35,000 times. “Do you all need it spelled out for you?” read another widely shared post. “A believer in Christ couldn’t wait to hold that Bible..A Satanist Cannot Touch It! Notice he has gloves… She has her clutch bag on top of it!” But the black item on top of the larger Bible was another Bible, as photos from a different angle confirmed. The Associated Press reported that Harris used two Bibles during her oath. One belonged to Regina Shelton, a family friend whose Bible Harris swore on when becoming attorney general of California and later senator. The other belonged to Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Semora, North Carolina, contributed this report.
Band did not play ‘Hit the Road Jack’ outside the White House
CLAIM: A video shows a military band played the song “Hit the Road Jack” outside the White House before Donald Trump said farewell to Washington.
THE FACTS: The audio in the video of the Army band’s pre-inauguration rehearsal was altered. CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta posted the original video on Twitter on Monday, which showed the band actually playing “National Emblem,” an American march composed in 1902 and published in 1906. “Preps for Biden inaugural… you can hear the band playing on WH grounds,” Acosta tweeted, sharing a clip of the band’s rehearsal. The video was manipulated to insert the song “Hit the Road Jack” and it was shared widely on social media. An audio search using the music app Shazam linked to the Ohio State University Marching Band performing the song. “Just Happened. Military Band practices ‘Hit The Road Jack’ right outside the WH!’” wrote a Twitter user, who shared the altered video on Monday. The clip had 3 million views. Another Twitter user shared the manipulated video on Tuesday with the comment: “Perfect. Trump’s last day. The Military Band right outside the White House — ‘Hit The Road Jack.’” The post had more than 25,000 retweets. The edited video also circulated on Facebook. Shaunteh D. Kelly, a military spokesperson, confirmed to The Associated Press in an email that the “Army Band was rehearsing the ‘National Emblem’ as a part of the military’s precision, teamwork, and dedication to ceremonial excellence.”
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.
Trump did not pardon Joe Exotic
CLAIM: Donald Trump pardoned “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic before leaving office as president of the United States.
THE FACTS: Social media posts circulating widely on Wednesday falsely claimed the eccentric Oklahoma zookeeper featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” received a pardon from Donald Trump in his last hours as president. “Joe Exotic’s team thanks Donald Trump for his pardoned signature & will be released from jail in Ft Worth, TX,” read a tweet shared hundreds of times on Wednesday. But Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was not on Trump’s final pardon list, according to reporting by the AP. Maldonado-Passage is serving a 22-year sentence in a Texas federal prison for violating federal wildlife laws and for trying to arrange the killing of his chief rival, Florida animal sanctuary founder Carole Baskin. Baskin wasn’t harmed. Maldonado-Passage has maintained his innocence and requested a pardon in September. His team was so confident in a pardon this week that they had prepared a celebratory limousine for the occasion. When news broke that he wouldn’t be released on Wednesday, Maldonado-Passage’s backers — who call themselves “Team Tiger” — released a statement expressing their disappointment. “140 million Joe Exotic fans had a hard time getting out of bed this morning,” the statement said.
— Ali Swenson
Posts falsely cite Pelosi as responsible for security during Capitol insurrection
CLAIM: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is in charge of overseeing the Capitol Police, is responsible for security failures that allowed the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to happen.
THE FACTS: Pelosi does not oversee day-to-day operations of the Capitol Police. But after the deadly riot at the Capitol, social media users began sharing posts that blamed Pelosi for security shortfalls that allowed the building to be breached. “It was Capitol Police that let the intruders in and it was Capitol police who killed an innocent woman that was on the opposite side of a door from that officer whom we still don’t know the name of,” said one tweet with more than 2,000 likes. “Nancy Pelosi is in charge of Capitol Police NOT Trump.” Capitol Police are responsible for security on the grounds of the Capitol and protecting Congress, along with the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms. “No one person oversees USCP — the oversight apparatus includes representation from the Architect of the Capitol, the House and Senate Sergeants at Arms, as well as committees from both Houses of Congress,” Bee Barnett, director of communications and programs for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, said in an email. While the Capitol Police budget is approved by both chambers of Congress, Pelosi does not control day-to-day operations or officer assignments. The storming of the Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to tally the Electoral College votes confirming Joe Biden won the election, left five people dead, including Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. The building was placed under lockdown and members of Congress were forced to hide. Three top security officials resigned following pressure from congressional leaders, including Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, and longtime House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving. Pelosi called the events a “failure of leadership at the top” and called for Sund’s resignation. Irving had already resigned when she sought Sund’s resignation. Sund was hired in 2019 by a three-member board that consists of the two sergeants at arms from the House and Senate, as well as the Architect of the Capitol.
— Beatrice Dupuy, with additional reporting from Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington.
Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman did not create Telegram channel
CLAIM: Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, created a channel on the popular messaging app Telegram and posted several dozen times there, sharing videos, images and phrases such as “nothing can stop what is coming” and “THE TRUTH WILL SHOCK THE WORLD.”
THE FACTS: Hyten’s spokeswoman, Maj. Trisha Guillebeau, confirmed to the AP that the general does not have a Telegram account and that the creator of the channel is impersonating him. The Telegram channel titled “General Hyten” was created on Monday. By the next day, it had dozens of posts and well over 200,000 subscribers. Posts appearing to come from Hyten in the channel urged users not to give up hope and to “have faith.” Some posts included videos or images of former President Donald Trump. The posts hinted at impending breaking news and the potential use of an emergency broadcasting system, mirroring a false theory that President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration would be interrupted by emergency broadcasts or Trump invoking the Insurrection Act. Multiple posts in the channel also included terms like “great awakening,” “storm” and “nothing can stop what is coming,” which are frequently used by supporters of QAnon, a false conspiracy theory rooted in the baseless belief that Trump is fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring. The individual sharing the posts used an image of Hyten and claimed to be him, even writing, “The account is maintained by me. -genhyten.” However, Guillebeau confirmed to the AP that an impersonator was behind the account. “This Telegram account is fake,” Guillebeau said in a phone interview. “General Hyten doesn’t have any professional or personal social media accounts across the board.” By Tuesday, the channel had been mentioned in hundreds of other Telegram channels populated by QAnon supporters, according to Marc-Andre Argentino, a doctoral candidate at Concordia University who studies the QAnon movement. Telegram did not respond to a request for comment from the AP, but it did appear to affix a warning label to the channel on Tuesday.
— Ali Swenson