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News / Nation & World

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

Social media users shared a range of false claims this week

By MELISSA GOLDIN, Associated Press
Published: June 7, 2024, 8:49am

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.

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Video edited to make it appear Biden tried to sit down when there wasn’t a chair

CLAIM: A video shows President Joe Biden trying to sit in a chair that wasn’t there during a ceremony in Normandy, France, commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

THE FACTS: The video, in which Biden’s chair is for the most part clearly visible, is cut before the president sits down. Full footage of the ceremony shows the president looking over his shoulder for his chair and pausing before taking a seat.

As World War II veterans and world leaders gathered to honor the famed Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France, social media users shared the short clip to further an ongoing narrative that Biden is infirm.

In the video, Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron shake hands while standing between their wives, first ladies Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron. The president then briefly looks over his left shoulder, bends over and hovers in that position as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is announced as the event’s next speaker.

“This is disturbing,” reads one X post. “Pres. Biden is literally trying to find the invisible chair to sit in. It’s just all so sad, and disgraceful to those in attendance who desire to honor the brave men who died to protect our nation from tyrannical governments.”

Another X post states: “Biden is trying to sit in a chair that doesn’t exist. The problem is that he intends to continue running for the presidential elections.”

But the video spreading online cuts off right before Biden takes a seat. In footage of the ceremony in its entirety, the president glances at his chair, bends over, pauses as Austin’s introduction begins and then sits down at the same time as Macron, their wives and the people sitting behind them. Biden’s chair is visible throughout the video although it is obscured in some sections.

Biden spoke later in the event, pledging “we will not walk away” from Ukraine, drawing a direct line from the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi domination to today’s war against Russian aggression. He called D-Day a “powerful illustration of how alliances, real alliances make us stronger.” The June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion was unprecedented in its scale and audacity, using the largest-ever armada of ships, troops, planes and vehicles to punch a hole in Adolf Hitler’s defenses in western Europe and change the course of World War II.

Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy that day, most from the U.S., Britain and Canada. They faced around 50,000 German troops.

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Anti-abortion activist convicted for blockading a reproductive health clinic, not for praying there

CLAIM: A 75-year-old woman named Paulette Harlow was sentenced to two years in prison for praying outside an abortion clinic in Washington.

THE FACTS: Harlow was convicted in August 2023 of federal civil rights offenses for her role in the October 2020 invasion and blockade of the Washington Surgi-Clinic. Along with other anti-abortion activists, Harlow used force and physical obstruction to execute the blockade, according to the Department of Justice. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison on Friday.

Social media users are misrepresenting Harlow’s crimes, alleging that she is being put behind bars because she chose to pray beside the clinic.

“A DC judge just sentenced 75-year-old Paulette Harlow, who is in poor health, to 2 years in prison for praying outside an abortion clinic,” reads one X post that had received approximately 15,000 likes and 9,800 shares as of Wednesday. “Her husband fears she might die there.”

An Instagram post that shared a screenshot of the X post states: “The justice system has been broken for a long time and needs a f—ing overhaul. It’s not going to happen overnight but it NEEDS to happen.”

The post, which received more than 4,200 likes, also referenced former President Donald Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts last week. “Stop saying ‘if’ they can do it to Trump, they can do it to you,” it reads. “They already ARE doing it to you.”

But Harlow, who is named in court documents as Paula “Paulette” Harlow, isn’t getting prison time for praying outside the clinic.

The 75-year-old was sentenced to two years behind bars after being convicted on two charges for taking part in the blockade of the Washington Surgi-Clinic: felony conspiracy against civil rights and violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, more commonly known as the FACE Act.

Enacted in 1994, the federal FACE Act prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services. The law also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers.

Harlow was charged alongside nine co-conspirators, including the blockade’s leaders, Lauren Handy and Jonathan Darnel. She was the last to be sentenced. All but one of the defendants were found guilty on the same charges as Harlow. The other pleaded guilty to violating the FACE Act. Handy and Darnel were sentenced to the most prison time, 57 months and 34 months, respectively. The rest received sentences ranging from 10 to 27 months.

“These 10 defendants have been held accountable for using force, threatening to use force and physically obstructing access to reproductive health care in the District of Columbia,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

Martin Cannon, one of the defendants’ attorneys, said in a statement responding to Handy’s sentencing on May 14 that she and her co-defendants were united in non-violence and that “they conspired to be peaceful.”

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Posts spread image of satirical ‘Gayo’ condiment as real

CLAIM: An image shows a bottle of rainbow-colored mayonnaise called “Gayo” that was released by Kraft to celebrate Pride Month.

THE FACTS: The image was fabricated. It was first posted in 2022 by a social media user who goes by the name “Doctor Photograph” and frequently shares satirical images of fake products based on the real thing. Kraft Heinz, the company that owns the Kraft brand, confirmed to The Associated Press that “Gayo” is not real.

As this year’s Pride Month kicked off on Saturday, the image spread out of context on social media, implying that “Gayo” is an actual product.

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It shows someone’s hand holding a bottle of what is supposedly rainbow-colored mayonnaise in front of a grocery store shelf. “Real Gayo,” the label reads, along with taglines such as “Smooth & Sassy” and “Add Pride to your next BLT.” The Kraft logo also appears on the bottle.

Many posts shared the image with an added caption that reads, “what the hell is this.” One on Instagram had received more than 29,000 likes as of Monday.

But no such condiment exists.

The image, which has been misrepresented online during previous Pride Months, was created by the social media user Doctor Photograph, whose real name is George. He declined to give his last name due to concerns that his family could be harassed if it is made public.

Doctor Photograph’s X profile reads, “I create photoshopped labels, bootleg toys & doctored images.” He first shared the “Gayo” image in 2022 with the hashtags “#photoshopped” and “#thatlooksdoctored.” The user confirmed to the AP in an email that the image, which he made in Photoshop, “was definitely created as a joke for my followers.”

“My photoshops have been stolen/repurposed in the past but in those instances, I felt like my work was being recycled for likes, whereas in this case I felt like somebody used my work to stoke hate, which I really struggled with,” he added.

Kraft Heinz confirmed to the AP in an emailed statement that “this is not a real product.”

Doctor Photograph shared a similar image in 2021, with minor differences. For example, the supposed rainbow of mayonnaise is horizontal rather than vertical and the label uses the tagline, “Take Pride in your next sandwich.” Although the added caption in the image spreading on social media hides it, both fake labels include the text “(DoctorPhotograph).”

post pinned to the top of Doctor Photograph’s X profile shows the original photo of Kraft mayonnaise that he edited, along with both versions of the satirical “Gayo.” Doctor Photograph posts many other images of fake satirical products, such as “Cannibal’s Condensed Human Soup” and “I Fell Off the Cliff Bar.”

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