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.
In the election, did Hillary Clinton only win 57 out of 3,141 counties?
No. Clinton won at least 487 counties, according to two different counts of preliminary results.
Dec. 9, 2016
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 President Obama sign an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools?
No. That claim comes from a satirical story on a fake news website.
Sept. 2, 2016
Is it true that there were more votes than voters in Wood County, Ohio, and St. Lucie County, Fla., and that Obama lost every state with photo ID laws?
No. A viral email that makes those claims is bogus. It fabricates Ohio and Florida results. Also, Obama won four of the 11 states with photo ID laws.
Jan. 17, 2013
Has President Obama canceled the May 6 National Day of Prayer?
No. This widely circulated falsehood echoes similar claims made last year when the president issued a pro-prayer-day proclamation but didn’t hold White House services as President Bush had done.
April 29, 2010
Update: We published an updated item on May 5, 2016, to say that President Obama has never cancelled the National Day of Prayer as long as he has been president.
Are the Obamas buying a vacation home in Dubai?
No. This rumor was circulated on a fake news website.
Feb. 10, 2016
Did Democrats increase federal income tax rates in 2014 under Obamacare?
No. Tax increases mentioned in a viral email went into effect a year earlier, as part of a budget deal supported by many Republicans as well as most Democrats.
April 15, 2014
Update: A new version of this email is circulating in 2016. The revised email has a new date (January 2016, instead of January 2014) and two additional tax claims.
Was there a pro-ISIS rally in Dearborn, Michigan, on Dec. 5?
No. Actually, there was an anti-ISIS rally on Dec. 5 in Dearborn. False information about that rally was spread on social media.
Dec. 18, 2015
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 President Obama call for a “new world order” in a speech in Europe?
No. Video of Obama’s speech was edited to change the meaning of what he said.
Nov. 5, 2014
Is Charles Roots a cousin of the late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, and did he write the “true story” about Stevens’ death?
No. Roots is not related to Stevens, and he says he is “disgusted” by a story attributed to him about Stevens’ death.
June 12, 2014
Is it true that, under the Affordable Care Act, “Medicare will not pay anything” for patients receiving only “observation” care in hospitals?
No. Medicare will pay a significant portion of observation care costs after copayments and deductibles are met. Nothing has changed as a result of the ACA.
May 13, 2014
Does the Affordable Care Act require Medicare beneficiaries over age 75 to be admitted to the hospital by their primary care physician?
No. There is no such requirement in the law.
March 27, 2014
Is it true that there are bills in Congress that would exempt members and their staffs and families from buying into “Obamacare”?
No. Congress members and staffers will be required to buy insurance through the exchanges on Jan. 1.
May 3, 2013; Updated on Aug. 7, 2013
Is “Obama’s finance team” recommending a 1 percent tax on all bank transactions, as a chain e-mail claims?
No. This idea was first floated in 2004 by one House member, who says it would replace the federal income tax and eliminate the national debt. So far it has gone nowhere.
Sept. 8, 2010; Updated June 5, 2012
Do 11 states now have more people on welfare than they have employed?
A viral email making this claim is off base. It distorts a Forbes article that compares private-sector workers with those “dependent on the government,” including government workers and pensioners, and Medicaid recipients — not just “people on welfare.”
Jan. 11, 2013
Are Obama’s early records “sealed”?
No. Many records that presidential candidates don’t ordinarily release do remain confidential, but they are not “sealed” by a court. The 16 claims in a widely distributed graphic are mostly false or distorted.
July 31, 2012
Does the Obama administration intend to “force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for U.S. citizens” through a United Nations treaty?
No. The administration plans to negotiate a treaty to regulate the international export and import of weapons. It says that it won’t support any treaty that regulates the domestic transfer or ownership of weapons, or that infringes on the Second Amendment.
June 27, 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 any truth in the e-mail claiming to give “a few highlights from the first 500 pages of the Healthcare bill”?
Barely. We examined all 48 claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate.
Aug. 28, 2009
Has a “smoking gun” been found to prove Obama was not born a U.S. citizen? Did he attend Occidental College on a scholarship for foreign students?
This chain e-mail is a transparent April Fools’ Day hoax. It fabricates an AP news story about an nonexistent group, and makes false claims about Obama and the Fulbright program.
May 7, 2009
Was Obama born in the U.S.A.?
Yes. We give you the truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
Aug. 21, 2008
Updated Nov. 1, 2008
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.’ “