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.
Sanders Didn’t Call for 52% Tax on $29,000 Incomes
A viral post claims, falsely, that Sen. Bernie Sanders at a recent debate called for a tax rate of 52% on incomes of $29,000 or more to pay for his Medicare for All plan. He didn’t. That figure was floated as a potential marginal tax rate for income above $10 million.
Feb. 21, 2020
Viral Photo Doesn’t Show Schiff With Whistleblower
Viral posts are spreading a false claim that a photograph shows Rep. Adam Schiff with the “whistleblower.” The photo was posted by Schiff and shows his family and his daughter’s boyfriend — who is a college student, not an intelligence official.
Feb. 4, 2020
Pelosi’s Impeachment Pens Aren’t 18-Karat Gold
Claims spreading online say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used expensive pens, or ones made of gold, to sign the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Actually, the pens, which are made mostly of brass, have a suggested retail value of about $20.
Jan. 24, 2020
Social Posts Distort Facts on Trump Charities
Posts on social media falsely claim that the Trump family is “disallowed from operating ANY charity” in New York because they “stole from a kids cancer charity.” That inaccurately describes the outcome of a court case involving the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and conflates it with allegations about the Eric Trump Foundation.
Dec. 24, 2019
Dubious Posts Tie Political Families to Ukraine Work
There’s no evidence for social media claims that the children of Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney and John Kerry are working for “Ukrainian gas companies” or sitting “on the board of directors for energy companies doing business in Ukraine.”
Oct. 29, 2019
Pelosi Didn’t Raid Social Security for Impeachment Inquiry
A viral, made-up story sowed confusion among social media users over whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has diverted Social Security money to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. She didn’t.
Oct. 11, 2019
Did President Donald Trump send Barack Obama a bill for his “vacation scam”?
No. That bogus claim comes from a “satirical publication.”
June 19, 2017
Comparing Benefits for Refugees and Senior Citizens
A popular meme falsely claims that each month refugees in the United States receive over three times more money in “federal assistance” than Social Security beneficiaries. That’s a new version of an old claim we debunked over a decade ago.
July 19, 2019
Citizenship, the Census and Obama
Memes circulating online claim that former President Barack Obama removed the citizenship question from the 2010 census. He didn’t. The citizenship question in 2010 was handled the same way it had been since 1970.
July 12, 2019
McConnell’s Biggest Donor Isn’t Russian
A meme on Facebook falsely claims that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s biggest campaign donor is a Russian oligarch.
June 25, 2019
Did House passage of H.R. 1 allow noncitizens to vote?
No. That bill would enact a host of changes to election laws, but it does not permit noncitizens to vote.
March 13, 2019
Obama Didn’t Give Iran ‘150 Billion in Cash’
A viral meme distorts the facts about the Iran nuclear agreement. The deal, approved by six countries and the European Union, gave Iran access to its own frozen assets.
March 1, 2019
Social Security Falsehood Circulates Again
Social media posts wrongly claim Democrats voted against the Social Security cost-of-living increase for 2019. Adjustments to Social Security benefits are not decided by lawmakers.
Jan. 4, 2019
Does the U.S. provide medical insurance and voting rights to immigrants in the country illegally?
No. A viral meme misrepresents what such immigrants are entitled to in the U.S.
Nov. 9, 2018
Did President Trump donate his $400,000 salary to military cemeteries?
No. A year-old viral email makes that claim. But the president does indeed donate his salary to different government initiatives each quarter.
Aug. 7, 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
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
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
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
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 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.’ “