NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A nurse prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta. On Friday, May 17, 2019, The Associated Press has found that stories circulating on the internet that mandatory flu or pneumococcal vaccinations are a requirement under the Affordable Care Act, are untrue. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

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 these out. Here are the real facts:

CLAIM: Health care law does not mandate that nurses give vaccines.

THE FACTS: Mandatory flu or pneumococcal vaccinations are not a requirement under the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010, as a post circulating on Facebook suggests. The Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” requires insurance providers to cover the full cost of preventive vaccines but the legislation does not require hospital staff to administer those shots to unvaccinated patients. Information in the Facebook post, which is attributed to a nurse whistle-blower, wrongly suggests nurses must give the flu or pneumococcal vaccination to patients who have not had them, even without their consent. “If (nurses) were giving vaccines without consent, that would be assault and we don’t do that,” John Cullen, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a doctor in Alaska, told The Associated Press.

CLAIM: A woman who is raped and seeks an abortion in Texas could be put to death.

FALSE: Women cannot be put to death in Texas for seeking an abortion as a post circulating online this week suggests, although one lawmaker has proposed legislation that would criminalize the procedure. The inaccurate claim sets up a hypothetical situation: “A woman is raped and impregnated by her rapist. She seeks an abortion to end her unwanted pregnancy. Her government puts her to death, but not her rapist. Sharia law in some Islamic country? Nope. Texas.” It began appearing on Facebook this month after a bill that would have made abortion a capital offense failed to move forward in the Texas legislature. Women can still legally undergo an abortion in Texas up until 20 weeks of pregnancy. After that point, abortions are banned except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or the fetus has a severe medical abnormality. “The way the law stands currently in Texas there are no criminal penalties for women who have abortions,” said Drucilla Tigner, a reproductive rights strategist for the ACLU of Texas.

CLAIM: Photo shows military moms hosted by Melania Trump on Mother’s Day.

THE FACTS: The photo, which circulated on Facebook on Mother’s Day, May 12, was falsely captioned. Melania Trump did not host such an event on that day. The photo was taken during a Joint Armed Forces Officers’ Wives’ Luncheon in April 2018. It shows Ivanka Trump — not Melania Trump — who was the guest speaker at the event, seated among members of the Air Force Officers’ Spouses’ Club of Washington, D.C., one of the groups that attended the luncheon. That group posted the photo on Twitter in April 2018. Facebook users shared it this past Mother’s Day and falsely said it was taken ‘today.’ The caption also suggested the group of women lacked diversity by saying: “What’s wrong with this picture?” President Donald Trump and his wife held a Military Spouse Appreciation Day event at the White House on May 10, the Friday before Mother’s Day, to honor military mothers and spouses. The first lady tweeted photos of the event last week, which showed a diverse group of attendees.

CLAIM: A Facebook post shows Joel Osteen Ministries refusing to accept a prayer request submitted on the social media platform unless the person pays a $24.99 monthly donation.

THE FACTS: The image circulating on Facebook that appears to show the popular televangelist demanding a donation in exchange for a prayer is a hoax, a spokesman for Osteen’s Houston-based Lakewood Church told the AP. The manipulated image shows a screenshot of a Facebook account made to look like that of Joel Osteen Ministries seeking donations from a woman who requested a marital prayer. It is not from Osteen’s account. Anyone can submit a prayer request in person, by phone or on the church’s website, free of charge, a church official said. Millions of viewers tune in weekly to his televised sermons. “Joel Osteen Ministries never requests money for prayer,” Donald Illoff, a spokesman for the church, said in an email to The Associated Press. “The image being circulated is from an impostor account.” Last year, 225,000 prayers were submitted to the church, according to Illoff.

CLAIM: Photo shows President Barack Obama bowing to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

THE FACTS: The photo has been manipulated. Two photos were combined to create the false image that appears to show Obama bowing to Khamenei. It has circulated on social media previously and resurfaced this week on Facebook with a caption that read, “America will not apologize or bow to anyone ever again!!” The original photo of Khamenei was taken by an Agence-France Presse photographer during Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inauguration ceremony in August 2005. In the photo, Khamenei is seated with his hands crossed as Ahmadinejad bows to him. Obama, then a U.S. Senator, was not present at the event. The other photo used in the altered image was taken by White House photographer in May 2009 when Obama bent over to accommodate the request of a staff member’s young child who asked to touch the president’s hair while visiting the Oval Office.


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.

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