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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bogus Bald Eagle Executive Order

Q: Did President Trump sign an executive order making it legal to hunt bald eagles?

A: No. That bogus story was published by a fake news website.


Did Trump OK hunting bald eagles?


Don’t be fooled by the “AP” dateline on a story that says President Donald Trump signed an executive order “which allows the hunting of bald eagles.” That fake news story — not from the Associated Press — was published by the St. George Gazette, one of several websites created by online hoaxer Paul Horner.

The story, which was reported by Facebook users as potentially fake, claims that “Trump explained his decision for making the hunting of the bald eagle legal” by telling reporters at a press conference that “there’s nothing more American and more of a symbol of freedom, than having the freedom to hunt and kill a bald eagle.”

Trump, the made-up story says, added that “this will allow Americans to take advantage of their Second Amendment rights in the most Patriotic way possible. Plus the taste is absolutely tremendous, a great bird, the best tasting bird. I ate one the last time I was in China, absolutely delicious.”

Trump never said that, and there was no press conference for the signing of “Executive Order 14841,” which does not exist. Executive orders are numbered consecutively and, as of May 17, the last one that Trump signed was EO 13800 on May 11.

Plus, the video in the story is actually White House footage of Trump signing an executive order in February on enforcing regulations. And the featured photo of Trump is from the swearing-in ceremony for Defense Secretary James Mattis. At that event, Trump signed an executive order on immigration and a presidential memorandum on the military.

Bald eagles, contrary to what the bogus story claims, are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940. It “prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from ‘taking’ bald eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs,” according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The law defines “take” as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.”

While the St. George Gazette does not include a disclaimer letting readers know that most of its stories are made-up, readers might suspect that Jimmy Rustling, the credited author of the bald eagle ruse, is not a real person if they read his biography at the end of the story.

It makes the unbelievable claim that Rustling “has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes.” And it also says that he is “an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months,” and that he “spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.”

Rustling’s fake story even quotes Horner, the creator of the St. George Gazette, and falsely says that he works for the Washington State Department of Ecology.

In reality, Horner is a longtime writer of internet hoaxes who has created a number of fake news websites, including abcnews.com.co, which we have written about before.

In a November interview with the Washington Post, Horner said that his stories, which he considers to be satire, contributed to Trump winning the 2016 presidential election.

“My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time,” Horner said. “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.


Rustling, Jimmy. “Donald Trump Signs Executive Order Allowing The Hunting Of Bald Eagles.” St. George Gazette. Accessed 17 May 2017.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “Federal Laws that Protect Bald Eagles.” Accessed 17 May 2017.

White House. President Trump Signs an Executive Order. YouTube video. 24 Feb 2017.

Office of the Press Secretary. “Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” WhiteHouse.gov. 24 Feb 2017.

Vanden Brook, Tom, and Korte, Gregory. “Trump signs orders on rebuilding military and ‘extreme vetting.’ ” USA Today. 27 Jan 2017.

Federal Register. 2017 Donald Trump Executive Orders. Accessed 17 May 2017.

Dewey, Caitlin. “Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me.’ ” Washington Post. 17 Dec 2016.

Hedegaard, Eric. “How a Fake Newsman Accidentally Helped Trump Win the White House.” Rolling Stone. 29 Nov 2016.

Dewey, Caitlin. “This is not an interview with Banksy.” Washington Post. 22 Oct 2014.

Wallace, Caroline. “Obama Did Not Ban the Pledge.” FactCheck.org. 2 Sep 2016.