A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Don’t get spun by Internet rumors.

Just because you read it on Facebook or 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 “That Chain E-mail Your Friend Sent to You Is (Likely) Bogus. Seriously,” on March 18, 2008. More recently, we addressed the problem of bogus “stories” from fake news sites: “How to Spot Fake News,” on Nov. 18, 2016.

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. If you’re looking for articles about other viral claims, please use our search function.

Did President Donald Trump sign an order allowing veterans to get full medical bills paid at hospitals outside the VA?
No, but Trump has continued a program that allows some veterans to seek outside care.
March 13, 2018

Did FactCheck.org expose Snopes.com as an “extremely liberal propaganda site”?
No. That false claim was made in a meme circulating online.
March 6, 2018

Are the students who survived the Florida school shooting really “crisis actors”?
No. Conspiracy theories have been spreading online to undercut students advocating stricter gun control.
Feb. 22, 2018

Is the Florida school shooter a registered Democrat?
No. Nikolas Cruz isn’t even registered to vote.
Feb. 20, 2018

Has the Food and Drug Administration announced that vaccines cause autism?
No. FDA statements are grounded in scientific evidence. There is no evidence that vaccination is linked to autism.
Nov. 22, 2017

Did President Donald Trump shut down a service dog training program for veterans?
No. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center ended its contract with the program and told us that the president was not a factor.
Nov. 16, 2017

Is the Department of Defense planning a drill that will cause a nationwide blackout? Is antifa involved?
No and no. The Army is conducting a drill with ham radio operators, and it has nothing to do with antifa.
Nov. 2, 2017

Was an “illegal alien” arrested for starting the wildfires that have ravaged northern California?
No. The arrest was not related to the wildfires.
Oct. 20, 2017

Did players for the Seattle Seahawks burn the American flag?
No. A widely circulated picture was altered to make it look that way.
Oct. 17, 2017

Did President Donald Trump revoke the National Football League’s status as a nonprofit organization?
No. The NFL’s league office voluntarily gave up that status in 2015.
Oct. 12, 2017

Did a Teamsters strike hinder aid efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria?
No. Stories claiming so misrepresented an actual quote from an Air Force colonel.
Oct. 10, 2017

Is a Craigslist ad proof that counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally were “paid to make chaos”?
No. The ad called for “actors and photographers” in Charlotte, North Carolina, not Charlottesville, Virginia, where the rally took place.
Aug. 24, 2017

Is the man who drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Hillary Clinton supporter, and funded by George Soros?
There is no evidence to support either claim. In fact, the driver is a registered Republican, and his former teacher said he supported Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.
Aug. 22, 2017

Did NASA confirm that there will be 15 days of darkness on Earth in November?
No. Variations of that false claim have been circulating since at least 2015.
Aug. 11, 2017

Was Malia Obama fired from an internship for smoking marijuana? Was she arrested for buying marijuana in Chicago?
No. Those spoof stories were made up to troll conservative readers.
Aug. 10, 2017

Did NPR report that a study found “over 25 million Hillary Clinton votes were completely fraudulent,” and that she “actually lost the popular vote”?
No. That claim was made in a story that conflates a 2012 article about inaccuracies in voter registration rolls with actual fraudulent votes.
Aug. 3, 2017

Were Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s daughters arrested for smuggling cocaine into the U.S.?
No. That story and several spin-offs were intended as satire.
July 14, 2017

Were refugees, weapons and drugs found on a Clinton Foundation cargo ship?
No. That is yet another story from a prolific satirical website.
May 18, 2017

Did President Donald Trump tweet that he will deport American Indians to India?
No. This claim comes from a satirical website.
May 10, 2017

Was Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, charged with larceny and fraud?
No. That false claim piggybacks on a fake news story that we already wrote about.
May 9, 2017

Did Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson find over $500 billion in accounting errors while auditing HUD’s financial statements?
No. The errors were discovered and published by HUD’s independent inspector general before Carson became secretary.
April 19, 2017

Did President Trump increase monthly payments to Social Security beneficiaries?
No. Trump had nothing to do with the automatic cost-of-living increases for 2017, which were announced by the Social Security Administration last October.
April 10, 2017

Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg resigning from the Supreme Court?
No. That claim was made in a fake news article based on a satirical story that said Ginsburg would resign if Donald Trump was elected president.
Jan. 18, 2017

Will Marian Robinson, Barack Obama’s mother-in-law, receive a $160,000 government pension for babysitting her granddaughters during Obama’s time as president?
No. That false rumor originated from a fake news website.
Nov. 9, 2016

Did Donald Trump tell People magazine in 1998 that if he ever ran for president, he’d do it as a Republican because “they’re the dumbest group of voters in the country” and that he “could lie and they’d still eat it up”?
No, that’s a bogus meme.
Nov. 25, 2015

Can members of Congress retire and receive their full pay after serving one term?
No. Only senators are eligible for a pension after one term, but it won’t be their full salary.
Jan. 5, 2015

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

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.’ “