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‘Satire’ Misinforms on Impeachment Witnesses


Quick Take

A bogus claim that Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, paid impeachment witnesses “over $40 million” to testify is circulating online. That claim actually originated on a self-described satire website.


Full Story

A made-up claim that some witnesses were paid millions of dollars for their testimony during the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has been shared thousands of times on Facebook.

The claim originated on a website that describes itself as satirical. But the most viral version of it was shared by Today Breaking News — a copycat website that doesn’t identity itself as satirical and, instead, presents the falsehood as though it’s true.

Today Breaking News, which was created on Dec. 2 under the domain name ajuanews.com, features a mix of bogus, politicized celebrity news and stories copied from America’s Last Line of Defense — a network of self-described satirical websites that we’ve written about before

The story republished by Today Breaking News has been shared on Facebook six times more widely than ALLOD’s original story, according to data from CrowdTangle.

The same made-up story has also been copied and posted by at least three other dubious sites.

The headline, which is the only part of the story that’s visible on Facebook, claims: “Adam Schiff Paid Witnesses Over $40 Million To Testify Against Trump.”

Many readers on Facebook responded with messages concluding thattaxpayermoney had been used. That’s not true.

According to the “Rules of the House of Representatives,” witnesses called by House committees to voluntarily testify can be subpoenaed, as were some of the witnesses for the impeachment inquiry. But the rules make no mention of compelling witnesses to appear by offering payment, although they can collect a per diem and get reimbursed for travel expenses.

For example, the House intelligence committee, which led the impeachment hearings, spent a total of $1,521 on witness travel in the quarter from July through September, which is the most recent information available. Those payments were for private witness testimony that took place before the public hearings got underway in November.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Adam Schiff Paid Witnesses Over $40 Million To Testify Against Trump.” Bustatroll.org. 3 Dec 2019.

U.S. House. Rules of the House of Representatives | One Hundred Sixteenth Congress. 11 Jan 2019.

Congressional Research Service. “The Impeachment Process in the House of Representatives.” Updated 14 Nov 2019.