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 them out. Here are the real facts:
Hunter Biden got $1.76 million from taxpayer-funded Amtrak
Articles and tweets circulating online wrongly suggest that Biden was paid $1.76 million by Amtrak, a passenger rail service that has received billions of dollars in federal subsidies. They also suggest that Amtrak paid Biden’s lobbying firm for work.
Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, was in fact paid $32,850 during a 31-month tenure on Amtrak’s board of directors. President George W. Bush nominated Biden to Amtrak’s board and he was confirmed by the Senate in July 2006, according to congressional records. He served on the board until February 2009. During that time, Amtrak paid Biden a total of $32,850, which represents per diem fees paid for attending 43 board meetings, according to Amtrak records.
Amtrak said in an email that it has “no record of any contract” with Biden’s former lobbying firm, Oldaker, Biden and Belair. Biden, who mainly represented colleges while working with the firm, resigned as a federal lobbyist in 2008, when his father ran for vice president on the ticket with Barack Obama, the AP reported at the time.
Former President Barack Obama has signed a $90 million deal with Netflix to produce a documentary about the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
The false claim began circulating on social media in September after publication of a satirical article in The New Yorker magazine. A Netflix spokesperson confirmed to The Associated Press on Wednesday that no such deal has been made or is under consideration. A spokeswoman for Obama also confirmed there is no truth to such a deal.
The false posts come after the Sept. 27 edition of the Borowitz Report, a satire column published by The New Yorker. According to the satirical item, Obama told reporters production on the series could begin as early as October, in Washington and Kyiv. The article includes a smirking picture of Obama and a fabricated quote that credits him as saying, “We’ve already hit the ground running on the script.”
Tweets and Facebook posts have passed around the satirical item, which set the deal at $90 million, as a real report. “How long exactly has Obama been working on this film?” one Twitter user asked.
The truth about Obama and Netflix: In 2018, he and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, signed a deal with the streaming video provider. Their production company, Higher Ground Productions, unveiled in April a total of seven films and series that would be developed under the deal. Their first documentary, about a glass factory in Ohio owned by a Chinese investor, debuted in August.
Photo shows protesters carrying a banner that reads: “Assassinate Republicans that defeat Democrats. Make America Great.”
The photo circulating on social media was altered to change the wording on the banner. In the original photo, the poster reads: “Trump makes America hate, our students make America great.” The manipulated photo with the altered wording has circulated on Facebook accompanied by text that reads: “Openly calling for assassination. Guess what comes next ... war.”
The original photo, published by The Associated Press, was taken by Matt Marton during a March 11, 2016, protest at the University of Illinois-Chicago. At the time, Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, was planning a rally at the university. Trump’s team canceled the rally citing security concerns after protesters and his supporters clashed.
The altered photo with the “assassinate” wording has been shared before on social media with claims that Democrats are inciting violence.
Video shows a garbage-filled river in India.
A Twitter user uploaded a video showing a river in Lebanon overflowing with trash, falsely claiming it was in India. The video, which had 31,000 views by midweek, was accompanied by a statement that falsely claimed: “This is a River in India. Ask yourself. Why aren’t Greta and the rest of the wack jobs protesting in India, China and Africa? It’s all about money and power with them.”
“Greta” refers to teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who addressed world leaders at the United Nations climate summit in September. The video shows a river overflowing with a variety of items, trash, plastic bottles, even a mattress. According to local journalists and multiple media reports, including Lebanese Al-Jadeed TV, the video shows the Ghadir River as it passes through Hay el-Sellom, a suburb in southern Beirut, in early September 2018. According to reports at the time, heavy rains picked up trash that had been thrown into the river, making it appear like a flood of garbage.
The issue of trash has been an ongoing issue in Beirut since at least 2015, when infrastructure challenges led garbage to go uncollected for a period of time, sparking massive protests.
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.