NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
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:
False, unfounded claims distort attack on Paul Pelosi
CLAIM: The attack was a “Domestic Violence Case in a consensual sexual relationship,” and the suspect was found in his underwear when police arrived at the house.
THE FACTS: No evidence has been presented to support either assertion, both of which contradict what law enforcement officials have said and what court documents describe. In the days since the alleged assailant, identified as David DePape, 42, broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacked her husband with a hammer, internet users amplified these false claims that mock the victim and give credence to insidious conspiracy theories. Baseless and homophobic claims suggesting a personal relationship between Paul Pelosi and DePape have been shared by prominent figures including elected officials, conservative pundits and Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, who later deleted his post. But San Francisco’s district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, told reporters on Sunday that there was “nothing to suggest that these two men knew each other prior to this incident.” She said during a press conference Monday the attack appeared to be politically motivated. Authorities have stated that DePape broke a glass door of the home and entered with a hammer, zip ties and other supplies, intending to kidnap the Democratic lawmaker. Jenkins’ office in a court filing Tuesday detailed the contents of a 911 call Pelosi made early on Oct. 28, during which Pelosi confirmed that he did not know DePape. Overhearing the call, DePape said aloud that his name was David and he was a “friend,” the filing said. Likewise, an FBI agent’s affidavit reports that Pelosi in the 911 call “conveyed that he does not know who the male is” and later told a police officer in the ambulance that he had never seen DePape before. DePape told police officers that he went to the home to take Nancy Pelosi hostage, according to the affidavit, and that he viewed her as a “‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party.” Separately, the affidavit makes clear that DePape was wearing clothing at the time. “Officers removed a cell phone, cash, clipper cards, and an unidentified card from DEPAPE’s right shorts pocket,” the document reads. A local news outlet reported the baseless claim that DePape was in his underwear, but it later corrected its story. Pelosi, meanwhile, was asleep in his bed on the second floor of the home when DePape entered and woke him up, according to officials. “Mr. Pelosi, who was sleeping, was wearing a loose fitting pajama shirt and boxer shorts,” Jenkins, the district attorney, said Monday. DePape is facing multiple charges including attempted murder.
— Associated Press writers Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia and Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.
No, Pennsylvania didn’t send 255K ballots to ‘unverified’ voters
CLAIM: Pennsylvania has sent “255,000 unverified” ballots to voters for the midterm elections.
THE FACTS: The state didn’t send out that many ballots to unverified voters. This claim misrepresents a figure in a state database, which does not mean that the voters failed to provide correct identification information, nor that their identities weren’t ultimately verified. Social media posts and headlines promoted the false claim that Pennsylvania officials had issued around a quarter-million ballots to people whose identities weren’t confirmed. “CRISIS IN PENNSYLVANIA – 255,000 UNVERIFIED NEW VOTERS SENT BALLOTS – CANDIDATES BETTER CONTACT THEIR LAWYERS,” read an Oct. 26 headline from the website The Gateway Pundit. The story claims that this “is how Democrats cheat.” The story cites an Oct. 25 letter from Republican state lawmakers to the Pennsylvania secretary of state, which claimed the state had issued “over 240,000 unverified ballots.” A day earlier, an elections investigation group called Verity Vote issued a report making similar claims, citing a state database as evidence. But officials in Pennsylvania say the claim flagrantly misrepresents the way that the state classifies applications for mail-in and absentee ballots. “There are not 240,000+ ‘unverified ballots,’ as certain lawmakers are claiming,” Pennsylvania Department of State spokeswoman Amy Gulli said in a statement provided to the AP. In Pennsylvania, those applying for mail-in or absentee ballots must provide proof of identification — such as state driver’s license information or the last four digits of their Social Security Number. In some cases, a voter’s identifying information is automatically verified, including by cross-referencing it with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation data. However, in other cases, the voter’s identifying information must be vetted further. When that happens, the application enters the statewide system under a designation labeled “NV,” or “not verified.” Notably, the “not verified” designation doesn’t mean the voter didn’t provide accurate identification information, nor does it mean their ID wasn’t later verified. “The code does not reflect the results of any identification check but is, in fact, an additional mechanism to ensure that counties are properly verifying ID provided by voters,” acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman wrote in an Oct. 28 response letter to the Republican lawmakers. Chapman added that the “NV” status can also be applied to applications of voters who request to permanently receive mail-in ballots so that verification occurs for every election in which the ballot is issued. If a voter’s identification can’t be verified at the time they apply for a ballot, state law does require that the voter still be issued a ballot and be provided an opportunity until the sixth day after the election to provide the proper proof of identification. But counties are not to count the ballot unless the voter provides proof of identification. There are currently about 7,600 ballot applications in Pennsylvania that still require identification verification, according to the Department of State. Election officials use high-tech equipment that sorts out ballots that arrive but are still pending verification, said Al Schmidt, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan group. “That vote won’t be counted unless the voter does what’s required — which is just to verify their ID,” said Schmidt, a former Philadelphia city commissioner. Verity Vote argues all verification should occur before a ballot is issued. “It seems reckless in the modern era, to send a ballot based on an unverified mail ballot application with the intention of verifying later,” the group said in a statement to the AP. The Gateway Pundit on Monday responded to an inquiry by forwarding responses from Verity Vote.
— Angelo Fichera and Ali Swenson
Pre-filled voter registration forms are not proof of fraud
CLAIM: The campaign of Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for Texas governor, engaged in voter fraud by sending pre-filled voter registration forms to dead people.
THE FACTS: While O’Rourke’s campaign did send out partially filled-out forms to encourage people to register before the Texas deadline, experts and government officials say that sending such forms is permitted under Texas law. Some social media users, however, have falsely claimed that O’Rourke’s campaign was engaging in voter fraud by trying to illegally register dead people to vote. “Beto O’Rourke’s campaign has also been sending pre-filled registration applications to dead voters,” a woman said in a video posted to Twitter that was shared more than 11,000 times. “This is literally right before the November elections and they’re sending this to dead voters. This is voter fraud.” O’Rourke’s campaign did send out application forms with people’s names, birthdays and addresses filled out to remind them to update their voter registration if they’d moved, or needed to register before the Texas deadline on Oct. 11, according to Chris Evans, the campaign’s director of communications. Evans acknowledged that the database the campaign uses for such mailings might contain errors. But he noted that all voter registration applications are reviewed by the state of Texas to make sure people who fill them out are eligible to vote. “An individual who is not eligible would have their application flagged by the state and be unable to successfully register,” he said. Texas election experts and officials concurred that a campaign sending out registration forms with select portions filled out is legally sound, even if a faulty mailing list leads to applications being sent to voters who have died. “Campaigns and third-party organizations that send people blank voter registration applications are allowed to pre-fill certain portions of the application,” Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Texas secretary of state’s office, told the AP. Texas election law allows for such pre-filled applications to already include the voter’s name, birthdate and address, Taylor said. He confirmed that all voter registration applications are subject to validation — including a comparison of information to Texas Department of Public Safety and Social Security Administration records. Individuals reported to those agencies as deceased would fail the validation process. D. Theodore Rave, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, also told the AP that it’s not illegal to fill out information such as a name, address and birthday. It would be against state law to fill out other information, such as “statements that the voter is a U.S. citizen, a resident of the county, not incapacitated, and not a felon,” he wrote in an email.
— Associated Press writers Angelo Fichera and Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.
Phillies fans’ cheers did not register on seismograph during Game 3
CLAIM: Cheers by Philadelphia Phillies fans were so loud when Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm hit home runs that they registered on a seismograph at Penn State Brandywine.
THE FACTS: While fans watching Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday were loud, their cheering was not loud enough to register on the seismograph at Penn State Brandywine, according to geological experts. Fans at Citizens Bank Park were on their feet and roaring after the Phillies hit five home runs against the Houston Astros on Tuesday. Amid the excitement, rumors spread on social media that the fans’ shouts shook the earth hard enough that a seismometer picked them up. “Harper and Bohm homeruns are literally registering on the Penn State University Brandywine seismograph station. The city is physically shaking,” reads one tweet with more than 16,000 likes. The tweet shows a red and blue seismograph readout with two major spikes, one labeled “Harper HR” and the other “Bohm HR.” Another graph shared on Twitter also claimed to show that there was enough noise from the stadium to be measured on the seismometer, with a spike highlighted at 9 p.m. local time. However, these results don’t match the seismic data that the university recorded Tuesday night. Kyle Homman, who is the seismic network manager at Penn State, told the AP that there wasn’t any indication of an increase in seismic activity around the time of Harper’s and Bohm’s home runs. Homman also explained that the two spikes shown in the first chart are only a few minutes apart, which doesn’t match up with those two home runs. The red and blue graph was taken from a seismograph report from Lick Observatory near San Jose, Calif. The graph shows the readout of a magnitude 5.1 earthquake recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area last Tuesday. Both Homman and Laura Guertin, a professor of earth sciences at Penn State Brandywine, confirmed that the second graph was from Penn State. But they noted the timing of the quick spikes did not match the game. For sports events to register, the machines would need to be less than a mile away, Homman said. Citizens Bank Park is about 20 miles away from the Brandywine campus. “We definitely have a Phillies Red Wave going on, but not a seismic wave,” said Guertin. The Phillies’ home runs on Tuesday night tied with a World Series record and gave Philadelphia a 2-1 Series lead. But the lead shifted after the Astros won games on Wednesday and Thursday. Game 6 will be played on Saturday in Houston.
— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Los Angeles contributed this report.
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