- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2020

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:


CLAIM: Video shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lashing out at CNN host Christiane Amanpour in an interview about Trump’s acquittal after being impeached.

THE FACTS: The video clip was taken from Amanpour’s interview of Pelosi this month in Munich, Germany, but has been altered to include a close-up of Pelosi’s image with the comment “CRAZY NANCY,” as well as audio from an interview Amanpour gave at a film festival last year. In the video, Amanpour asks Pelosi about the Trump acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. Pelosi responds that a trial requires witnesses and documents, adding the Republican-held Senate held the fastest impeachment trial ever and the first without any witnesses. “He can say he is acquitted, and the headlines can say acquitted, but he is impeached forever, branded with that and not vindicated,” she says. During that portion, Pelosi’s image is enlarged and the comment “CRAZY NANCY…lashes out at reporter for saying President Trump was acquitted” is added at the bottom. The end of the video includes audio of Amanpour taken from an interview she did at the South by Southwest film festival in 2019, in which she says “We are in an existential moment now. We are at peril and at risk if we don’t know the difference between truth and lies.” The altered video makes it appear as if Pelosi is laughing at that comment.


CLAIM: When asked how he would pay for free health care for all at Wednesday’s Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders said he would raise taxes to 52 % on anybody making more than $29,000 a year.

THE FACTS: Sanders made no mention at the debate of raising taxes to 52 % for anyone making more than $29,000 a year, nor has he said that on the campaign trail. Sanders has long said he would tax the wealthy to support health care for all, and in 2016, he introduced a plan that would tax Americans making more than $10 million a year at a rate of up to 52%. That rate has never been mentioned for those making more than $29,000 a year. His 2019 Medicare for All plan suggested an option for a marginal tax rate of up to 70 percent on those making above $10 million a year. Following the Democratic debate Wednesday in Nevada, where Sanders renewed his call for raising the minimum wage “to a living wage of $15 bucks an hour,” a post began circulating on Facebook and Twitter using the false tax claim to say it would cancel out his minimum wage plan. The post relied on simple math in an effort to prove the point, multiplying $15 an hour by 40 hours a week and then calculating the $600 a week by 52 weeks per year to show an annual income of $31,200 annually. The post then divides $31,200 by 52% and works backwards to show the person would end up making $7.20 per hour. Campaign spokesman Mike Casca told The Associated Press that the posts circulating online were incorrect. Sanders has said in the past that he would tax Americans making more than $29,000 a year, but in a progressive way that would tax wealthiest people in the U.S. by the largest percentage. On debate night, former mayor and Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg criticized Sanders by remarking on Sanders’ plan to tax people making more than $29,000. Sanders later responded with “we’re saving people money because they don’t pay any premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, co-payments, or deductibles.”


CLAIM: Taking fish amoxicillin used in aquariums is the same as using amoxicillin prescribed by a doctor, just less expensive and does not require a prescription.

THE FACTS: Antibiotics available in pet stores have not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration and there is no evidence to say whether they are safe or effective for humans. Although fish amoxicillin sold online and in pet stores is labeled as not intended for human use, claims continue to circulate on social media stating that consumers can save money by opting to take the fish version of the antibiotic. “Same antibiotic, same pill, same manufacturer, same drug. One you have to have insurance and you gotta get a Rx from a Doctor and get it from the pharmacy. The other you can get from the pet store in the aquatic department. Thank me later,” stated one Facebook post with more than 12,000 shares. The FDA has not approved antibiotics available in pet stores or online for ornamental fish, Monique Richards, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an email. The federal agency cannot confirm whether the antibiotics are safe, effective or are manufactured to quality standards. “They may or may not contain the medicine the label claims,” she said. “Additionally, there are serious risks to taking antibiotics without a health care provider’s input. Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, for instance.” Some drugs for fish are used for aquaculture and are approved by the FDA like catfish on a fish farm, said Mark Papich, a clinical pharmacology professor in the college of veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University. But Papich warns that humans taking unregulated antibiotics meant for aquarium fish can have harmful effects. “We have been frustrated about this for a long time,” he said, discussing people taking fish antibiotics. “We have no idea the level of potency, the quality or an expiration date. We don’t know what other types of contaminants might be in it.” Taking the wrong antibiotics for an infection can also lead to antibiotic resistance.


CLAIM: Photo shows Sudanese minister wearing face mask while meeting with the Chinese ambassador to Sudan.

THE FACTS: The image was edited to place a medical mask on the face of Omar Qamar Al-Din, recently named state minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sudan. In recent days, a manipulated photo emerged on social media showing the foreign minister wearing a mask while meeting with Ma Xinmin, the Chinese ambassador to Sudan, as they discussed the new coronavirus outbreak. Many people have been wearing masks throughout China and other countries in an attempt to protect themselves from the new virus. “This is how the Sudanese minister welcomed the Chinese Ambassador at his office yesterday morning more to come,” a Facebook post published on Feb. 8 wrongly stated. According to Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs website and Twitter account, which shared the original image on Feb. 3, the Sudanese minister was not wearing a mask during the meeting. The meeting took place in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, as the two discussed efforts to evacuate Sudanese citizens from China during the new virus outbreak, the ministry website’s states. According to the World Health Organization, medical masks alone cannot protect against infection with the new coronavirus. WHO advised that the mask should be worn by those showing symptoms of coughing and difficulty breathing. There is no evidence that the masks protect people who are not sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no confirmed new coronavirus cases in Sudan.


CLAIM: Video shows thousands of people running from China through the border with Vietnam to escape the new coronavirus.

THE FACTS: The footage was taken before the first reported case of the new virus from China was reported in December. Social media users began widely sharing the video in an attempt to link it to the new virus which has killed more than 2,200 people and sickened more than 75,000 in mainland China. On Jan. 28, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed a directive stating that the transportation ministry would suspend all flights to Vietnam from areas affected by the new coronavirus in China and the defense ministry would ban all travel at border crossings with China. The video was taken at the Friendship Border Station, located at the border between Guangxi, China, and Lạng Sơn in northern Vietnam. The footage can be found online since at least Nov. 28, 2019, when it circulated with captions suggesting that it showed an influx of Chinese people arriving in Vietnam. The video shows a large group of people running to the checkpoint at the border, which matches images online with the Friendship Border Station. In the clip, a person can be heard commenting that more than 1,000 people can be seen running and that it is many more people than the day before. The person commenting in the video then says the people are Chinese coming to Vietnam for tourism. At the immigration checkpoint, people often run to beat the long lines at the border, according to Associated Press reporters based in Vietnam.


CLAIM: Video shows dead bodies waiting to be picked up in Wuhan, China, due to new coronavirus.

THE FACTS: The video of bodies covered with blankets shows people sleeping on a street in Shenzhen, China, a city over 600 miles away from Wuhan. It has been circulating on social media falsely identified as showing people who died from the new coronavirus. “Wuhan China. Dead Bodies waiting 4 pickup. Coronavirus NO ordinary Virus. Is it intentionally released BIO WEAPON?” a Twitter user posted on Feb. 17. The video actually shows people sleeping on the street in Shenzhen after the government issued a permit system for entering and exiting the city to prevent the spread of the virus. The Associated Press confirmed the location of the video through satellite imagery, and matched the buildings from the clip with buildings on Hualong Road. According to local reports, the Shenzhen government introduced the permit system on Feb. 9. The system resulted in people being forced to sleep on the street overnight, according to several posts that featured the video. In a video of the scene shot from a different angle, it is clear the people have duvets and pillows.


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Find all AP Fact Checks here: https://apnews.com/APFactCheck


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