Social media users and websites jumped to the wrong conclusion by claiming the Trump family took seats reserved for guests with disabilities at the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly. They sat in seats reserved for guests of the speaker, President Donald Trump.
A falsehood on social media accuses President Donald Trump’s grown children of occupying seats at the United Nations headquarters in New York City that were intended for guests with disabilities.
That deception — based on social media speculation — followed Trump’s address before the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24, and appears in stories and screenshots that have been shared by thousands of users.
PoliticalFlare.com, which describes itself as a “news/opinion site for Democrats,” posted a story featuring an Associated Press image showing a disability placard in front of the Trumps. The story focuses on social media commentary about that picture, but its headline reads as fact: “Trump’s Children Cause Outrage at UN After Seen Sitting in Area Reserved for the Handicapped.”
Likewise, the website DCTribune.org posted a headline claiming, “Trump’s Children Cause Anger At UN Assembly After Photo Emerges Of Them Sitting In Area Reserved For The Handicapped.” Its subhead called the matter “sickening.” Other websites also perpetuated the falsehood.
But the Trumps were actually sitting in an area that was reserved for them.
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general, told us by phone that the area in question seats 21 people and is “reserved for guests of the speaker” — in this case, Trump. “Every head of state can have guests,” he explained.
Dujarric said two seats in the area can be adjusted to make room for wheelchairs — hence the handicapped placard — but in this case they were not needed. Other images show various Trump administration officials sitting in the rows behind members of the Trump family.
“Everybody sat where they were supposed to sit,” Dujarric said. “Nobody was sitting in an area where they shouldn’t have been sitting.”
Links to the stories on PoliticalFlare.com and DCTribune.org alone earned more than 120,000 Facebook engagements, including some 23,000 shares, according to CrowdTangle data. The PoliticalFlare.com post was updated to include language midway through the story that indicates some uncertainty about the claim. The headline of its story, though, remains false.
Update, Nov. 18: One of the websites that ran a story advancing the false claim that the Trump family sat in the seats for the disabled at the U.N. changed its headline and amended its story to reflect that the claim was wrong. DCTribune.org – now PoliticalTribune.org – also added a correction that says the section “was not reserved exclusively for disabled or differently-abled people.”
Dujarric, Stéphane. Spokesman, United Nations secretary-general. Phone interview with FactCheck.org. 25 Sep 2019.
“UN General Assembly.” AP Images. 24 Sep 2019.
“United States – President Addresses General Debate, 74th Session.” United Nations. YouTube. 24 Sep 2019.