A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these is legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: Joe Biden, while vice president, leaked the identities of special ops SEAL Team 6 who captured Osama bin Laden.
THE FACTS: Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, did not leak the names of those involved in the 2011 raid that killed the al-Qaida leader despite posts circulating widely on social media. The claim, which has circulated before, surfaced again this week following the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State group, during an Oct. 26 U.S. special operations raid. The death of bin Laden, who was sought for the Sept. 11 attacks, was announced on May 1, 2011, after a Navy SEAL team raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing him, his son and several others. On May 3, 2011, Biden gave an address at the 50th anniversary dinner for the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank, where he mentioned the Navy SEAL team that killed bin-Laden. He first acknowledged the night’s honorees, including U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, now retired, who he said would speak more about the Navy SEALs and their raid on bin Laden. Biden went on to praise the team that carried out the mission, including the SEALs. But he did not mention team members by name. Social media users began blaming Biden for identifying participants in the raid after 15 members of SEAL Team 6 were killed in August 2011 when a rocket-propelled grenade fired by a Taliban insurgent downed their helicopter in Afghanistan.
CLAIM: President Barack Obama freed al-Baghdadi from prison during his presidency.
THE FACTS: The Islamic State group leader, who died in an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. forces, was not released in the Middle East under Obama, who served two terms, from 2009 to 2017. The false claim resurfaced after news of the raid on his hideout in Syria. The false claim also circulated on social media in 2014. Posts with the false claim resurfaced on Monday on Facebook and Twitter following President Donald Trump’s announcement Sunday that al-Baghdadi had died after being cornered by U.S. special operations forces. According to the Pentagon, al-Baghdadi was detained by U.S forces in 2004 and sent to Camp Bucca prison in Iraq for anti-U.S. militant activities. He was released after 10 months and then joined the al-Qaida branch in Iraq. At the time of his release, George W. Bush was the U.S. president. Following the deaths of senior leaders in the group, he rose to lead IS in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson confirmed to The Associated Press that Al-Baghdadi was released from Camp Bucca after being held for ten months. He said there is no information indicating he was imprisoned again and released in 2009, as some false items online have claimed.
CLAIM: Photo shows Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota wiping away tears after learning U.S. forces in Syria killed IS leader al-Baghdadi.
THE FACTS: Posts on Facebook and Twitter are falsely claiming, sometimes satirically, that Omar — a Somali immigrant who is Muslim — was pictured shedding tears over the death of the terrorist leader. In fact, the photo was taken on April 10, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington as Omar spoke about Trump’s immigration policies. Reuters photographer Jim Bourg took the image, which shows Omar wearing a black headscarf, rubbing her left eye to wipe away tears. Hours after Trump formally announced al-Baghdadi’s death, Omar wrote a tweet offering “deep gratitude” to the forces who carried out the “dangerous operation” against the terrorist leader. “Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was an evil man and a terrorist, who terrorized the world with violence and a message of hate,” Omar’s tweet read, in part. “The world is a safer place without him.”
CLAIM: Photo shows protesters carrying a banner that states “Assassinate Republicans that defeat Democrats. Make America Great.”
THE FACTS: The photo was altered to change the wording on the banner. In the original photo the poster says, “Trump makes America hate, our students make America great.” The manipulated photo circulating on Facebook is accompanied by text that states, “Openly calling for assassination. Guess what comes next…war.” The original photo, distributed by The Associated Press, was taken by Matt Marton during a March 11, 2016, protest at the University of Illinois-Chicago. At the time, the Trump presidential campaign was planning a rally at the university. Trump’s team canceled the rally citing security concerns after protesters and supporters clashed. The altered photo with the “assassinate” wording has been shared before on social media with claims that Democrats are inciting violence.
CLAIM: Picture shows Mary and Fred Trump wearing Ku Klux Klan robes, standing with son Donald Trump in 1999.
THE FACTS: The manipulated photo, edited to make it appear Trump’s parents are wearing Klan garb, has circulated before on social media. It surfaced again this week on Facebook and Twitter. The image shows Trump in a red tie and a black suit standing with his arms around his mother and father. Mary Trump is wearing a pink and black floral suit, with pearls draped around her neck. Fred Trump is wearing a navy suit, red pocket square and polka dot tie. The three Trumps posed for the photo against a marble wall backdrop and a sign that reads “theater tickets.” The original photo was taken by Judie Burstein in 1992, according to Globe Photos, a celebrity and entertainment photo company that archived the image in March 2004. Fred Trump, who made a fortune in real estate, died in 1999 at the age of 93. Mary Trump died in 2000, at the age of 88.
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.