Not Real News: A look at what didn’t happen this week

This is a roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:

CLAIM: Video shows a rigged voting machine in Mississippi as a voter clicks the box for Bill Waller Jr. in the Republican primary runoff for governor and the machine switches the vote to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

THE FACTS: The video shows a voting machine malfunction in Lafayette County, Mississippi, during the August 27 runoff. Posts sharing the false claim that the machine was deliberately rigged began circulating on Twitter following Nov. 5 off-year elections across the country. The video was first shared in August during the Republican primary runoff. One video showing the malfunction, which marked the ballot for Reeves when Waller was pressed, recirculated during the November election with a caption that falsely stated, “Voter Fraud … Rigged Machines.” The Mississippi Secretary of State issued a press release on August 27, explaining that the video showed a machine malfunction at the Burgess precinct in the city of Oxford. Nineteen votes were cast on the machine before authorities were made aware of the issue, according to the release. The machine was replaced after the issue was discovered. “Each political party’s county executive committee is responsible for providing testing on TSX machines. Both parties contracted with the county election commission and the county technician to provide accuracy testing for this machine and the machine operated correctly prior to the election,” the press release said. Reeves won the runoff and went on to defeat Democrat Jim Hood, the state attorney general, in the Nov. 5 elections.

CLAIM: The young man pictured in photos with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Trump impeachment inquiry.

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THE FACTS: The man in the photo is Alex Soros, son of billionaire philanthropist George Soros. He is not the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked impeachment proceedings. Posts with the false identification spread widely on Facebook and Twitter as public impeachment hearings began Wednesday. Rep. Steve King of Iowa amplified the false claim Thursday, tweeting the photos with the comment: “Adam Schiff said, “I do not know the identity of the whistleblower.” @RepAdamSchiff here are four strong clues.” King’s tweet was taken down Thursday after receiving more than 1,000 likes. He did not respond to requests for comment. The photos were taken from Alex Soros’ Instagram and Twitter accounts. Alex and his father have been the target of conservative attacks for their ties to the Democratic party and liberal causes. Alex Soros serves as deputy chairman of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic organization founded by his father. “Rep. King is circulating false information,” the Open Society Foundations said in a statement Thursday. “He is not the whistleblower, and any attempt to identify the whistleblower is a violation of protections put in place to help people in government root out waste, fraud and abuse.”

CLAIM: Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has declared it illegal for minors to participate in hunting season.

THE FACTS: No such announcement has been made, and the youth hunting season in Virginia, which has concluded for the year, has not been outlawed. Posts began circulating on Facebook after Virginia Democrats won control of the Legislature in the Nov. 5 election, with Northam soon after announcing he intends to reintroduce several legislative gun proposals once the new lawmakers are sworn in. Youth hunting season in Virginia — which applies to hunters age 15 or younger — has not been altered, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries confirmed to the AP in an email. “Any reports of cancellations or changes to the scheduled youth hunting days are inaccurate,” the agency said in a statement. In 2019, youth hunting days were offered Sept. 28-29 for deer, and Oct. 12-13 for bear and turkey. A youth waterfowl hunting day was held Oct. 26. After the Nov. 5 election, Northam said he plans to work with the new Democratic majority when the legislative session begins in January. Stricter gun laws, which include universal background checks and banning military-style assault weapons, are at the top of the governor’s list, the AP reported last week. Northam had also proposed a package of gun-control measures during a special session in July, in response to a mass shooting in Virginia Beach. One of the bills calls for anyone who “recklessly leaves a loaded unsecured firearm in such a manner to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14” to be punished with a misdemeanor charge and up to a $500 fine. “A responsible hunter — regardless of age — would not be affected by this bill,” Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email to the AP.

CLAIM: Video shows sanitation trucks surrounding Madison Square in New York to protect Trump from booing protesters.

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THE FACTS: Sanitation trucks were lined up strategically around Madison Square Park when President Donald Trump spoke at the launch of the New York City Veterans Day Tribute on Nov. 11, but they were there for security purposes, a common occurrence at events that draw large crowds. “Trash trucks surrounding Trump in Madison Square to protect him from the booing is the perfect metaphor,” stated a tweet with the video of the event, which was viewed more than 600,000 times. Officials with the New York City Police Department and the Department of Sanitation confirmed to The Associated Press that sanitation trucks are often used for security at big events, including the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. The trucks are used as “part of our counterterrorism overlay, not unique to this visit,” Lt. Eugene Whyte, of the NYPD’s public information office, told the AP.

CLAIM: The city of Dallas opened a convention center for people seeking shelter from the cold and then police arrested people with unpaid tickets who tried to enter.

THE FACTS: The Dallas Police Department told the AP that no arrests were made for parking tickets or non-violent offenses. A cold front swept through Texas on Monday sending temperatures plummeting into the 20s. Due to the cold weather, Dallas officials opened the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center for those seeking shelter. The Dallas Police Department offered security Monday night at the shelter. “To ensure the safety of all individuals, each person was notified upon entering the shelter that they were subject to checks for registered sex offenders,” the police department said in a statement. “In addition, if an individual had active warrants for sex offenses, serious felonies, and violent crimes they were subject to arrest.” The department made 11 arrests that night on outstanding warrants for crimes including sexual assault of a child. “No one was arrested for unpaid parking tickets,” the statement said. “That claim is not true.” Anastasia Reed, senior public affairs officer for the city, also confirmed in an email that individuals with minor, nonviolent and non-felony warrants were permitted to stay overnight. Police officers also conducted checks on Tuesday night.

This feature 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.

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