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Taking 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:


NASCAR, which recently banned the Confederate flag at its events, is now forcing its drivers to engage in Muslim prayer.

The facts

NASCAR is not forcing drivers to engage in Muslim prayer. The bogus claim circulated with a photo that showed drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway taking part in a longstanding tradition called “kissing the bricks.”

A post featuring the photo racked up more than 140,000 views last weekend. “So NASCAR bans the confederate flag but FORCES all their drivers to do Muslim prayer?” it read. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Unacceptable!!”

NASCAR has been the target of heavy praise and some disdain since it announced it would ban the Confederate flag from its events and properties, citing a need to provide a more “welcoming and inclusive” environment for its fans. But the auto racing association has not asked its athletes to participate in a Muslim prayer.

The photo that went viral on social media actually shows drivers participating in a well-known NASCAR tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Yard of Bricks. It was started by driver Dale Jarrett in 1996. After Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 race, he and his crew walked out to the finish line, knelt and kissed the yard-long section of bricks on the track. Since then, winners of the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400 and other races have done the same.


Public service announcement warns of a white supremacist who has been shooting at Black people at traffic lights. He drives a white truck and was last seen in Mesa, Arizona.

The facts

State and local police officials in Arizona as well as organizations that track violence by white supremacists said they received no reports of a gunman targeting Black motorists in Mesa, surrounding cities or elsewhere in the state last week. Nor did they release a public service announcement.

On Tuesday night, a post made to look like a public service announcement began circulating on Instagram and Facebook with claims of a violent white supremacist in Arizona. “PSA,” the post said, “If you’re in AZ there is a white supremacist shooting Black people at stop lights. He drives a white truck.” The post added that the driver was last seen in Mesa, a suburb of Phoenix. By Wednesday afternoon, identical posts shared on Facebook had been viewed more than 100,000 times.

Mesa Police Department officials said there was no evidence of any such activity in the city.

“We have not had any calls regarding this or anything similar,” Detective Jason Flam, the department’s public information officer, said in an email to the AP. “Our intelligence unit is aware and looking into this fake PSA.”

Flam said he was concerned that someone was “trying to create fear” with the unfounded post. He said he reached out to surrounding agencies in Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale and Tempe to investigate whether the posts were targeting multiple cities. Officers in those locations were unaware of any similar PSAs circulating in their jurisdictions, he said.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety had not seen any incidents like the one described in the post, spokesman Raul Garcia told the AP.

“This may be an example of disinformation designed to divide the community and cause fear,” he said in an email. “I have submitted the information to the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.”

Both Marcela Taracena, a spokesperson for the ACLU in Arizona, and Rebecca Sturtevant, an associate media director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said they had not received any reports about a white supremacist shooting people in Arizona.


“Nancy Green (aka Aunt Jemima) was born into slavery. She was a magnificent cook. When she was ‘freed’ she rolled her talent into a cooking brand that General Mills bought and used her likeness. She died in 1923 as one of America’s first black millionaires.”

The facts

There is no evidence that Green’s portrayal as Aunt Jemima made her into a millionaire.

After Quaker Oats announced Wednesday that it would retire the Aunt Jemima brand, known for its pancake mixes, posts online began circulating a false tale about the first woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima.

“Aunt Jemima really do you know her history?” a Facebook post carrying the false claim stated, criticizing Quaker Oats decision to remove the character from the brand. The brand got its name from the minstrel song “Old Aunt Jemima,” which was composed by African American comedian and performer Billy Kersands. Chris Rutt, who created the pancake flour in 1889, was inspired by the song after hearing it during a minstrel performance and decided to give the name to his pancake flour. At the time, Aunt Jemima was seen as a “mammy” character, a racial stereotype of a slave happy to please her white masters. Rutt then sold his company to a larger milling company, R.T. Davis Milling Co., after failing to sell the flour. The milling company brought its mix to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and hired Nancy Green, a former slave who was working as a cook for a judge, to act as Aunt Jemima and sell the pancake flour.

“This began a really long tradition of women being Aunt Jemima in public performance,” said Maurice M. Manring, author of “Slave in a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima.” “Aunt Jemima became a national brand advertising nationally.”

Manring added that the fame of the brand Aunt Jemima coincided with the explosion of advertising during World War I. The brand created a whole backstory for Aunt Jemima, giving her a fictional family and creating made up events about her life. However, there is no evidence that Green shared in any of the profits from the company that sold the pancake mix, said Patricia A. Turner, professor of African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author. Green would continue her work as a housekeeper and died in 1923 after being hit by a car.

In “Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America,” author Micki McElya wrote that very few people outside Green’s close friends and fellow parishioners at Olivet Baptist Church were aware of her role as Aunt Jemima. The brand would replace Green as Aunt Jemima with several different women, including Anna Harrington.

In 2014, the descendants of Harrington sued Quaker Oats and its parent company, PepsiCo, saying Green and Harrington were exploited, and asking for a share of the company’s profits for having helped develop the brand.

The decision by Quaker Oats to retire the Aunt Jemima name comes after weeks of protests demanding justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed by police in Minneapolis, and national outrage over the treatment of black Americans in the U.S. On Wednesday, Quaker Oats acknowledged to the AP that Aunt Jemima’s origins were based on a racial stereotype.


Side-by-side photos show that CNN lightened the skin of the gunman who drove a car into a Seattle protest to make him appear white.

The facts

CNN did not alter the skin tone of the gunman who drove into a George Floyd protest in Seattle on June 7 and shot one person. One of the photos used in the image was manipulated to make the gunman’s skin lighter, and a CNN logo was added. Posts circulating online are falsely suggesting that CNN got caught doctoring an image of a Seattle gunman to lighten his skin tone. The fabricated image shows side-by-side photos: one, taken by The Seattle Times, that shows the actual event and another that has been altered to lighten the gunman’s skin and add the CNN logo. The photo was shared across social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit.

“CNN lightened the photo of the man who drove into the protester last night in Seattle. They said he was white ... ck the real photo. Ok ... do you understand they are getting everyone riled up with LIES,” said an Instagram post with the image that had more than 7,000 likes.

Video taken by The Seattle Times of the protest on Capitol Hill in Seattle shows the gunman driving into protesters, hitting a barricade and then exiting his car holding a pistol. In a June 8 story about the incident, CNN did not include photos or video of the gunman.

CNN confirmed to the AP that the logo added to the photo is not in CNN’s style.

Bridget Leininger, CNN senior director of communications, told the AP in an email that the photo appears doctored. The altered photo began circulating on social media shortly after the gunman plowed into the June 7 protest. On June 8, 4Chan users uploaded the side-by-side image with the CNN logo saying “white supremacist shoots protester.”

“CNN is up to their no good tricks again,” the poster said.

The manipulated photo was shared widely across pro-Trump and conservative Facebook groups and pages where it received more than 50,000 interactions.

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.