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 facts:
CLAIM: A video shows Qatar’s emir threatening to cut off the world’s natural gas supply if Israel doesn’t stop bombing Gaza.
THE FACTS: Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, says no such thing in the widely circulating clip, which is more than six years old. A spokesperson for the Qatari government also confirmed that neither the emir nor any other government official has threatened to cut off exports in response to the conflict. Nevertheless, as the latest Israel-Hamas war re-ignites longstanding tensions in the Middle East, some social media users are sharing the video of the Persian Gulf nation’s ruler, claiming it shows him saying in Arabic that he’s willing to halt the distribution of its gas reserves to achieve his desired end to the war. “BREAKING: Qatar is threatening to create a global gas shortage in support of Palestine,” wrote one user who posted the video on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “If the bombing of Gaza doesn’t stop, we will stop gas supply of the world.” But Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani says nothing of the sort in the widely shared video. The 7-second clip is actually a tiny snippet from his opening speech at the Doha Forum in 2017. Marc Owen Jones, a professor of Middle East studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha, the capital of Qatar, confirmed that the emir touches briefly on Palestine in the widely shared clip, but doesn’t make any threats related to the current conflict. Instead the emir, in his remarks, urged the international community to take more steps to address the region’s refugee crisis, news outlets reported at the time. “The exact translation is: ‘The issue of Palestine, I’ll begin by saying it’s a case of a people uprooted from their lands, and displaced from their nation’,” Jones wrote in an email. Qatar’s government on Monday confirmed the clip dates to 2017 and is being misrepresented. “This is yet another case of an online disinformation against Qatar – such a statement has never been made and never would be,” wrote the country’s International Media Office in an email. “Qatar does not politicize its LNG supplies or any economic investment.” Qatar is one of the world’s top natural gas producers and has been working in recent years to use its sizable resources to build ties with other nations, not antagonize them, according to experts. Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a Boston-based company that tracks gas prices nationwide, pointed to a deal Qatar’s state energy company announced last week to supply French energy company TotalEnergies with 3.5 million tons of natural gas annually for the next 27 years.
— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.
CLAIM: The U.S. Embassy in Beirut was evacuated on Oct. 11.
THE FACTS: The U.S. Department of State debunked the claim that day, and again confirmed Wednesday that the embassy near the Lebanese capital remains open and operational. The embassy has authorized some non-essential personnel and the family members of some government officials to leave on a case-by-case basis, and is also recommending U.S. citizens leave the country. As the latest Israel-Hamas war threatens to expand into a wider regional conflict, posts claim the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon was abruptly shuttering its operations and transferring its staff elsewhere. “#BREAKING: The US Department of Defense evacuates the US Embassy in Beirut and urges US citizens to leave Lebanon immediately,” reads a post on Facebook that dates to Oct. 11. Similar claims spread widely on X, formerly known as Twitter, and other social media platforms. But the embassy, which is located north of Beirut in Awkar, took to social media that same day to dispel the notion. “The U.S. Embassy in Beirut has not evacuated and is open and operating normally,” the office wrote in an Oct. 11 post on X. “Reports saying otherwise are false.” It also urged U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the Israel-Lebanon border area, where clashes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, a heavily armed Islamic militant group based in Lebanon, have escalated in recent days. On Wednesday, as protesters supporting both Gaza’s civilian residents and Hamas clashed with Lebanese security forces near the embassy, U.S. officials did authorize non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government staffers to leave on a voluntary and “case-by-case” basis. But the embassy nevertheless remains open and operational, a state department spokesperson confirmed in emails. “This does not impact the operations of U.S. Embassy Beirut, which remains fully open for business,” the department wrote in a statement. The department has also upgraded its travel advisory for Lebanon to “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” meaning U.S. citizens are urged not to travel to the country and those in the country make appropriate arrangements to leave or at least make contingency plans for emergency situations. The embassy was moved from Beirut to Awkar in 1983 following a suicide bombing that killed 49 staffers during Lebanon’s civil war, according to a history of U.S.-Lebanon relations on the embassy website. It was shuttered in 1989 and reopened the following year.
— Phillip Marcelo.
CLAIM: Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo was sentenced to 99 lashes in Iran for hugging a woman.
THE FACTS: Iran, via its embassy in Spain, denied the claim, saying it hadn’t issued “any court ruling against any international athlete in Iran.” Social media users circulated the claim about Ronaldo, who debuted this year with Saudi Arabian team Al-Nassr. “Cristiano #Ronaldo could face a sentence of ’99 lashes for adultery’ the next time he visits #Iran because of a photo with a painter,” reads the caption on a popular Instagram post. The post includes photos of Ronaldo hugging Fatemeh Hamami, an Iranian artist who has painted portraits of the soccer star and others by holding a brush with her feet. But in a post last week responding to the claim on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Iranian Embassy in Spain rejected the notion that the country’s justice system had issued such a ruling. “We strongly deny the issuance of any court ruling against any international athlete in Iran,” the post read. The embassy noted that Ronaldo traveled to Iran on Sept. 18 and 19 to play soccer and was well received. Videos of Ronaldo with Hamami were published on the painter’s Instagram account Sept. 20.
— Associated Press writer León Ramírez in Mexico City contributed this report.