Don’t get spun by Internet rumors
Just because you read it on somebody’s blog or in an email from a friend or relative doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s probably not, as we advised in our special report “Is this chain e-mail true?” back on March 18, 2008. On this page we feature a list of the false or misleading viral rumors we’re asked about most often, and a brief summary of the facts. But click on the links to read the full articles. There is a lot more detail in each answer.
Are Obama’s early records “sealed”?
No. Many records that presidential candidates don’t ordinarily release do remain confidential, but they are not “sealed” by a court. The 16 claims in a widely distributed graphic are mostly false or distorted.
July 31, 2012
Does the Obama administration intend to “force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for U.S. citizens” through a United Nations treaty?
No. The administration plans to negotiate a treaty to regulate the international export and import of weapons. It says that it won’t support any treaty that regulates the domestic transfer or ownership of weapons, or that infringes on the Second Amendment.
June 27, 2012
Did Barack and Michelle Obama “surrender” their law licenses to avoid ethics charges?
No. A court official confirms that no public disciplinary proceeding has ever been brought against either of them, contrary to a false Internet rumor. By voluntarily inactivating their licenses, they avoid a requirement to take continuing education classes and pay hundreds of dollars in annual fees. Both could practice law again if they chose to do so.
June 14, 2012
Is General Motors becoming ‘China Motors’ using taxpayer dollars?
No. The restructured GM is still based in Detroit and is still one-third owned by the U.S. government. But it sells nearly as many cars in China as in the U.S. and has continued expanding operations there.
June 8, 2012
Did President Obama secretly sign a law that makes it a crime to protest against him or ask him a question he doesn’t like?
No. He openly announced the signing of a bill overwhelmingly passed by Congress that slightly revises a 1971 law against trespassing into areas under Secret Service protection.
May 7, 2012
Is the National Association of Realtors lobbying to repeal a 3.8 percent “sales tax” on homes before it takes effect in 2013?
No. There’s no such “sales tax” in the new health care law. And Medicare premiums aren’t going to $247 either. But these virulent falsehoods keep going around.
April 30, 2012
Is “Obama’s finance team” recommending a 1 percent tax on all bank transactions, as a chain e-mail claims?
No. This idea was first floated in 2004 by one House member, who says it would replace the federal income tax and eliminate the national debt. So far it has gone nowhere.
Sept. 8, 2010; Updated: June 5, 2012
Are three former Fannie Mae executives “economic advisers” to Obama?
No, claims made in a chain e-mail are false. Jim Johnson advised on non-economic matters but quit after a week. Franklin Raines says he took a “couple of calls” but was never an adviser. We find no evidence Tim Howard ever had a connection to the Obama campaign.
Oct. 9, 2008
Will Muslim Americans be exempt from the mandate to have health insurance?
The Muslim faith does not forbid purchasing health insurance, and no Muslim group has ever been considered exempt under the definitions used in the health care law.
May 20, 2010
Is President Obama giving away several Alaskan islands to Russia?
No. The U.S. has never claimed ownership of the islands identified in viral emails and websites. They lie far closer to the coast of Siberia than to Alaska.
March 27, 2012
Is President Obama responsible for Chinese companies building U.S. bridges with stimulus money, as reported by ABC News?
No. A viral email distorts an ABC News report. California officials hired a Chinese contractor and rejected federal money to avoid federal “Buy American” laws.
Feb. 17, 2012
How much has the federal debt gone up under Obama?
During his first three years in office, it rose $4.7 trillion, an increase of 45 percent. Partisan graphics circulating via email and Facebook are both incorrect.
Feb. 2, 2012
Did Obama issue a policy that “no U.S. serviceman can speak at any faith-based public event”?
This claim in a chain e-mail is false. Army officials say there has been no change in policy regarding “faith-based” events. And the event the e-mail refers to wasn’t a “faith-based” one.
June 10, 2009
Does Obama plan to deny emergency brain surgery for patients over 70?
No. A man claiming on a radio talk show to be a brain surgeon lied about that, and about a meeting of two associations of neurological surgeons, those associations say.
Jan. 5, 2012
Is it true that members of Congress, their staffers and their family members do not have to pay back their student loans?
Not true. Some congressional employees are eligible to have up to $60,000 of student loans repaid after several years — just like other federal workers. But that’s not the case for members of Congress or their families.
Jan. 6, 2011
Did Obama order the military to drop the words “on behalf of the president of the United States” when presenting the flag to the next of kin at funerals?
A chain email that makes that claim is wrong. Spokespersons for the Defense Department and the armed forces say that no change was ordered.
Oct. 10, 2011
Is President Obama honoring Jane Fonda as one of the women of the century?
No. That was done 11 years ago by Barbara Walters of ABC News.
Nov. 22, 2010
Did President Obama have his dog, Bo, flown to Maine in his own private jet for the family vacation?
No. The family and staff took two small jets because the airport couldn’t accommodate the usual presidential plane. Bo flew with several staffers.
Sept. 16, 2010
Is it true that nobody remembers Obama attending Columbia University?
At least one of his classmates remembers him well, and the university proudly claims Obama.
Feb. 16, 2010
Does George Soros own the company buying many firms that make guns and ammunition?
No. Contrary to a fanciful claim made in a viral email, the Freedom Group is not linked to the liberal billionaire. The National Rifle Association says the real owners are “strong supporters” of gun rights.
Oct. 21, 2011
Was President Obama’s tour bus made in Canada?
The shell of the $1.1 million bus came from Canada, but it was converted for the Secret Service by a company in Tennessee.
Aug. 25, 2011
Is a chart claiming to show the “top 20 raises” to White House staffers accurate?
It’s misleading. The salary increases for 19 of the 21 employees listed resulted from promotions. Average pay for White House staff actually declined.
Aug. 4, 2011
Is President Obama flying on Air Force One more than other presidents did? Is he being accompanied by more people on international trips?
Two chain e-mails suggesting that the president’s travel habits are more excessive than his predecessors are off base.
July 8, 2011
Is it true that boycotting companies that import foreign oil will “avoid putting more money into the coffers” of foreign countries?
No. There is no way to know for sure whether your local station is selling gasoline from imported or domestic oil. Besides, U.S. oil demand is twice its domestic supply.
March 25, 2011
What about the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011″?
A viral e-mail calls for fixing some abuses and excesses that don’t exist, repeating misinformed claims that we’ve addressed before.
March 18, 2011
Is President Obama using tax dollars to rebuild mosques around the world?
Yes — and to rebuild historic churches and temples as well. The State Department’s program to preserve overseas cultural landmarks started under President Bush in 2001.
March 10, 2011
Do statistics in a chain e-mail give an accurate “report card” of President Obama’s first two years?
Not exactly. The author made many minor mistakes and some major omissions in describing the terrible economic conditions he attributes to the president.
Feb. 25, 2011
Does Illinois pay a grandmother $1,500 per month per child to be the foster parent to her eight grandchildren?
No. State officials have no record of such a case, and state law would not allow it. This second-hand story spread by a Danville urologist isn’t true.
Dec. 10, 2010
Has President Obama canceled the May 6 National Day of Prayer?
No. This widely circulated falsehood echoes similar claims made last year when the president issued a pro-prayer-day proclamation but didn’t hold White House services as President Bush had done.
April 29, 2010
Was Michelle Obama’s brother’s job saved with money from the stimulus act?
This chain email is a hoax. It makes a ridiculously false claim about Craig Robinson, who is the head coach of Oregon State University’s men’s basketball team and the first lady’s older brother.
March 22, 2010
Did Congress raise its own pay for 2010 while voting to deny an increase for Social Security recipients?
No. A chain e-mail calling for “retribution” in the fall elections makes false claims and uses fabricated figures.
Jan. 8, 2010
Did Obama loan $2 billion to Brazil’s oil company to benefit China and George Soros?
The president had nothing to do with the loan, which the Export-Import Bank approved for Brazil to buy U.S.-made equipment and services.
Sept. 18, 2009
Is there any truth in the e-mail claiming to give “a few highlights from the first 500 pages of the Healthcare bill”?
Barely. We examined all 48 claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate.
Aug. 28, 2009
Is the ACLU suing to have cross-shaped headstones removed from military cemeteries?
The ACLU has filed no such suit, and it hasn’t sued to “end prayer from the military” either.
July 5, 2009
Did Obama accuse veterans of “selfishness” and whining? Would he have forced them to “pay for their war injuries”?
This chain e-mail contains fabricated quotes and misrepresents a budget idea that the White House scrapped.
May 12, 2009
Has a “smoking gun” been found to prove Obama was not born a U.S. citizen? Did he attend Occidental College on a scholarship for foreign students?
This chain e-mail is a transparent April Fools’ Day hoax. It fabricates an AP news story about an nonexistent group, and makes false claims about Obama and the Fulbright program.
May 7, 2009
Is Congress about to give Social Security to illegal immigrants?
No. Congress hasn’t voted on any measure to pay benefits to illegal immigrants, and has no plans for any such vote.
March 1, 2009
(This long-standing falsehood was bandied about back in 2006 and again during the 2008 presidential election.)
What’s the deal with Prof. Joseph Olson’s “unreported stats” from the 2008 election?
This chain e-mail is a hoax. The “statistics” are grossly incorrect, and Olson says he didn’t write it.
Jan. 5, 2009
Was Obama born in the U.S.A.?
Yes. We give you the truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
Aug. 21, 2008
Updated Nov. 1, 2008
Is there a connection between FactCheck.org and Barack Obama or Bill Ayers?
None, aside from benefiting at different times from the charity of the late publisher Walter Annenberg. We are a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and get funding from the Annenberg Foundation, created by Walter Annenberg in 1989. Ayers was one of three Chicago educators who applied for a grant from the Annenberg Foundation in 1995, which was one of 5,200 grants the foundation made during its first 15 years. That $49 million grant, plus additional funds raised locally, funded the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which sought to improve Chicago public schools. Obama was selected by Chicago officials (not Ayers) to chair the board set up to administer Annenberg Challenge funds, and he headed it until 1999. FactCheck.org came into being in late 2003. For other details see our Oct. 10, 2008, article about Obama and Ayers, which includes a sidebar: “FactCheck.org and the ‘Annenberg Challenge.’ “
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