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Monday, September 25, 2023
Sept. 25, 2023

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NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

Social media users shared a range of false claims 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:

Posts misrepresent old Biden clip as related to Trump case

CLAIM: A video shows President Joe Biden essentially confirming that his team coordinated the indictment of former President Donald Trump to “stop Trump from taking power again.”

THE FACTS: The video dates to November 2022 and shows Biden answering a question about how to reassure world leaders that Trump would not return to power. Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, in a process that did not involve the Biden administration and that wouldn’t prevent Trump from running for or winning the presidency in 2024. “Biden all but confirmed that his team is coordinating these Trump indictments to ‘stop Trump from taking power again,’” reads one Twitter post with the clip that has racked up more than 17,000 retweets. But White House transcripts and original video of the Nov. 9, 2022, event show Biden was answering a reporter’s question about how he would respond to world leaders concerned about Trump and his political movement returning to power. “Well, we just have to demonstrate that he will not take power by — if we — if he does run,” Biden replied. “I’m making sure he, under legitimate efforts of our Constitution, does not become the next President again.” The investigation into hush money payments made on behalf of Trump during his presidential campaign was conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which does not take orders from the White House. A grand jury voted to indict the former president in March. The district attorney convened the grand jury in January 2023, months after Biden gave these remarks. Trump was booked and arraigned on Tuesday. Even if he were ultimately convicted, he would not be barred from running for the White House in 2024, or winning the presidency. The White House has declined to comment on the indictment.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.

Manhattan DA Bragg not prosecuting parking attendant over shooting

CLAIM: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is charging a New York City parking garage attendant for attempted murder after he shot an alleged armed robber.

THE FACTS: Police initially arrested the worker on charges of attempted murder, assault and gun possession over the Saturday incident, but Bragg’s office dropped the charges the following day. The man’s lawyer said a video of the altercation clearing his client of wrongdoing was sent to the DA’s office. The claim spread as Bragg prepares to prosecute former President Donald Trump on criminal charges over hush money payments during his 2016 campaign. “New York City is a Joke: Manhattan Prosecutors Charge Victim of Assault With Attempted Murder,” wrote one Twitter user. But Bragg’s office isn’t prosecuting the parking attendant, a spokesperson for Bragg and the man’s lawyer confirmed to the AP on Monday. The shooting happened early Saturday morning when Moussa Diarra, 57, confronted a suspected thief in the parking garage where he worked, which is located near Moynihan Train Hall in midtown Manhattan. Charles Rhodie, 59, shot Diarra twice before he was able to wrestle the handgun free and fire back, according to police. Both were hospitalized and initially charged with attempted murder, assault and gun possession. Rhodie was also charged with burglary. It’s not clear what charges he’ll ultimately face or whether he still remains hospitalized. Spokespersons for police and Bragg’s office didn’t respond to follow up questions, and a lawyer for Rhodie couldn’t be identified. Charles Clayman, Diarra’s lawyer, said video of the altercation was eventually located and sent to the DA’s office, clearing his client of wrongdoing. “There’s no attempted murder charges and there never will be because my client was the hero and the victim, not the perpetrator,” he said by phone.

Bud Light maker didn’t fire marketing team over LGBTQ ads

CLAIM: Brewing company Anheuser-Busch fired its entire marketing department in response to its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney and the rollout of LGBTQ Pride-themed Bud Light cans that feature pronouns.

THE FACTS: Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, has not fired its marketing team, the company confirmed in a statement. That claim initially spread as satire but some social media users shared it as real. Meanwhile, the pride-themed cans were part of a limited rollout marking Pride Month in 2022 in Canada, not the brand’s partnership with Mulvaney. The Mulvaney partnership in recent days sparked a wave of transphobic commentary among conservative social media personalities who attacked the company for supposedly turning to “woke” advertising. Mulvaney, who is known for her popular series on TikTok documenting her gender transition, first posted a sponsored Instagram reel on Saturday coinciding with the final days of the NCAA’s March Madness tournament. In the video, Mulvaney cracks open a regular can of Bud Light, chats about March Madness, promotes a Bud Light contest and says that the brand had also sent her a special can with her face on it to celebrate the year anniversary of documenting her transition. Country musician Kid Rock soon chimed in, posting a video of him wearing a “MAGA” hat while shooting a rifle at packs of Bud Light. He and at least one other country musician claimed to be boycotting the brand over the post. Amid the backlash, a satirical website published a post claiming that Anheuser-Busch had fired its entire marketing team in response to the criticism. Some social media users shared the information as if it were genuine, posting screenshots of the headline. “There is no truth to that statement,” the company said in a statement to the AP on Thursday, noting that the one-off can it sent to Mulvaney with her face on it also is not available for wider release. The transphobic rhetoric was compounded by others sharing images of a year-old Canadian Bud Light campaign to claim the company was also pivoting to Pride-themed cans emblazoned with rainbows and pronouns. Those cans are not related to Mulvaney, nor are they recent or available everywhere. A May 2022 press release by Bud Light Canada promoting Pride Month initiatives that year explains that it would be releasing “limited-edition pronoun-inspired Pride cans” as well as providing a total of $100,000 to various organizations supporting Canadian LGBTQ groups.

— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in New York contributed this report.

Posts misrepresent WHO guidance on COVID vaccines for youth

CLAIM: The World Health Organization now says COVID-19 vaccines are “not recommended” for healthy children and teens.

THE FACTS: WHO experts released new guidance that suggests countries prioritize continued COVID-19 vaccinations for those most at risk, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions. The group said countries should consider prioritizing vaccines against more threatening diseases for healthy young people, but it did not recommend against COVID-19 shots — as some social media posts wrongly suggested. “WHO now recommends healthy, young people NOT get the Covid Vaccines,” one tweet claims. The revised guidance from the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization accounts for changing conditions, including the fact that many people now have either been infected, vaccinated or both. “Countries should consider their specific context in deciding whether to continue vaccinating low risk groups, like healthy children and adolescents, while not compromising the routine vaccines that are so crucial for the health and well-being of this age group,” SAGE Chair Dr. Hanna Nohynek said in a statement. In considering “the cost-effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination,” the advisory group said, countries should ensure healthy children and teens receive traditional vaccines, such as those against rotavirus and measles. Still, it said, primary and booster COVID-19 shots are safe and effective in children and adolescents. “It is not that they are not recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for low risk children,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in an email. Instead, he said, the guidance is stressing that, in places where resources might be constrained, vaccinating low-risk individuals against COVID-19 isn’t as important as vaccinating against more threatening childhood diseases. The move is “entirely about cost-effectiveness and priorities,” Adalja said.

— Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report.

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