PolitiFact - Rulingshttp://www.politifact.com/The latest factchecks PolitiFact.com has revieweden-usFri, 06 Oct 2023 22:12:24 +0000https://static.politifact.com/img/pf_rss_logo.png<![CDATA[Nikki Haley - Nikki Haley’s claim that Joe Biden added 20 million ineligible people to Medicaid is wrong]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/nikki-haley/nikki-haleys-claim-that-joe-biden-added-20-million/Nikki Haley - Nikki Haley’s claim that Joe Biden added 20 million ineligible people to Medicaid is wrongFri, 06 Oct 2023 22:12:24 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/nikki-haley/nikki-haleys-claim-that-joe-biden-added-20-million/

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley criticized President Joe Biden about entitlement program enrollment and claimed he’s responsible for adding millions of ineligible recipients to Medicaid.

"Under Joe Biden, we now have more than 42 million people on food stamps and nearly 100 million people on Medicaid. That’s almost a third of the country. Biden sees that as an accomplishment," the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador told a New Hampshire crowd Sept. 22. "He actually blocked states from moving people from welfare to work. And he put 20 million people on Medicaid who aren’t even eligible, then stopped states from taking them off."

For this fact-check, we’ll focus on the claim that Biden added 20 million ineligible people to Medicaid and stopped states from taking them off.

The number of Medicaid participants reached record highs during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a provision in a 2020 law that stopped states from removing enrollees. 

Biden extended the pandemic health emergency several times, which also extended the provision. But former President Donald Trump enacted the law, not Biden.

Haley’s claim that 20 million are ineligible for Medicaid is inaccurate, experts told us. It’s based on estimates of how many people could have been removed once removals were permitted.

The figure includes people who could be deemed ineligible because of procedural issues, such as failing to turn in or update paperwork. That sometimes occurs when states have outdated enrollee contact information or when enrollees don’t understand how to complete renewal packets within the allotted time frame.

"The notion that this was President Biden’s doing is certainly a big lie and a radical oversimplification on the amount of people being ineligible," said Leigh Ku, director of George Washington University’s Center for Health Policy Research. "How many are ineligible is yet to be determined; they are still being processed. It’s a huge undertaking in the states and they are slowly working through those claseloads." 

When contacted for comment, Haley’s campaign pointed to data showing that Medicaid rolls have ballooned since the pandemic’s onset and referred to reports that estimated around 18 million people would lose coverage by the end of the removal process. Neither is evidence that Biden is responsible for adding millions of ineligible people to the program.

Continuing Medicaid enrollment started under Trump

In March 2020, during Trump’s presidency, Congress passed the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act." It included a policy that let states receive extra federal funds for Medicaid if they didn’t remove anyone from the program during the public health emergency. The provision is called continuous enrollment.

During the health emergency’s three-year duration, people were not removed from state programs unless they voluntarily withdrew or moved out of state. During continuous enrollment, Medicaid enrollment grew from 71 million in February 2020 to 94 million in April 2023.

In Congress’ fiscal year 2023 budget, the continuous enrollment provision was no longer linked to the public health emergency and ended April 1. Since then, states have resumed what is typically an annual process of reevaluating enrollees, removing those who don’t meet Medicaid’s requirements.

The Biden administration extended the public health emergency several times before it ended May 11. Concerned that large numbers of people would lose health care coverage, and that moving too quickly could incorrectly disqualify would-be Medicaid recipients, the administration urged states to slow down their reviews.

This concern proved prescient in September, when the federal government found that about half a million people — including a significant number of children — in 29 states had been improperly removed because of computer errors. Their coverage was restored. 

How many are ineligible?

States recently started reevaluating their Medicaid rolls, and it’s not yet clear how many people will be removed. Even if that number reaches or exceeds Haley’s 20 million figure, that doesn’t mean those people weren’t eligible when they signed up.

"They were technically all eligible because the law extended their eligibility,," Ku said. "Some of them would normally have fallen off eligibility because they got a job, or because they may have aged out of Medicaid or simply because they forgot to turn in their paperwork — that's one of the major things that happens is people forget."

As of Oct. 2, around 13.2 million of the 94 million enrollees have had coverage renewed, while 7.8 million were removed, according to KFF. KFF found that around 73% of the people removed from Medicaid were for procedural reasons, not necessarily because they were no longer eligible.

Our ruling

Haley claimed Biden "put 20 million people on Medicaid who aren’t even eligible, then stopped states from taking them off."

A 2020 law included a policy that let states receive extra federal money for Medicaid if they didn’t remove any enrollees during the COVID-19 public health emergency. That was signed into law by Trump, not Biden.

Haley’s claim that "20 million" are ineligible is based on the large number of people added to Medicaid during the pandemic, and some estimates of how many could be removed during reevaluations. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t eligible when they signed up, or that all are ineligible now. And some will be deemed ineligible for reasons such as failing to turn in paperwork.

States are still reevaluating their Medicaid rolls and available data shows that, so far, about 7.8 million people have been removed. But most were taken off the rolls because of procedural errors, such as paperwork discrepancies, not because they didn’t meet eligibility requirements.

We rate this claim False.

Samantha Putterman
<![CDATA[ TikTok posts - No, this is not a real ABC News headline tying journalist death to Hunter Biden coverage]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/tiktok-posts/no-this-is-not-a-real-abc-news-headline-tying-jour/ TikTok posts - No, this is not a real ABC News headline tying journalist death to Hunter Biden coverageFri, 06 Oct 2023 22:10:03 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/tiktok-posts/no-this-is-not-a-real-abc-news-headline-tying-jour/

A misleading social media post promotes what appears to be a news story that says a journalist covering Hunter Biden has been shot and killed.

"Journalist covering the Hunter Biden case dies after being shot 7 times in his home; no arrests made," read what looked like an ABC News headline featured in an Oct. 3 TikTok video that garnered thousands of social media interactions.

The headline, however, is fake. 

(Screenshot of TikTok)

TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)

On Oct. 2, ABC News posted a story headlined, "Philadelphia journalist shot and killed in his home; no arrests made." The story is about the fatal Oct. 2 shooting of Josh Kruger, a former city of Philadelphia employee and freelance journalist. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he was shot multiple times in his home. On Oct. 6, police issued a warrant for the arrest of 19-year-old Robert Davis.  

Several news outlets have reported that Kruger’s writing focused on LGBTQ+ issues, homelessness, and substance abuse issues — not Hunter Biden. In a review of Kruger’s published writing, PolitiFact did not find any articles about Hunter Biden; Kruger did occasionally comment on Hunter Biden on his social media.

We found no ABC News story with this headline. Mark Osborne, the ABC News editor whose byline appeared in the TikTok screengrab, confirmed to PolitiFact that he never published a story with that headline. 

ABC News has posted several stories about Kruger’s death with headlines such as "Slain Philadelphia journalist Josh Kruger allegedly shot by 19-year-old he was 'trying to help': Police," and "Journalist who advocated for homeless and LGBTQ+ communities shot and killed at home." 

Fake or edited headlines are a common way to spread misinformation, so always double check a trusted news source.

We rate the claim that an ABC News headline said Kruger died after covering Hunter Biden False.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Grace Abels
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - No, a Bill Gates-funded COVID-19 vaccine won’t be released into the air]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/instagram-posts/no-a-bill-gates-funded-covid-19-vaccine-wont-be-re/ Instagram posts - No, a Bill Gates-funded COVID-19 vaccine won’t be released into the airFri, 06 Oct 2023 22:05:29 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/instagram-posts/no-a-bill-gates-funded-covid-19-vaccine-wont-be-re/

Did Bill Gates fund a COVID-19 vaccine that will be released into the air without the public’s consent? Don’t hold your breath. This is misinformation.

A vast majority of Americans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines. But some social media users are claiming that soon people won’t have a choice about whether to get vaccinated.

An Oct. 4 Instagram post shared a screenshot of an article with the headline, "Bill Gates mRNA ‘air vaccine’ approved for use against non-consenting humans."

The article included a photo of two people wearing medical coveralls and masks in a helicopter marked with the letters WFP, which stands for the World Food Programme, an international organization that fights hunger.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screengrab from Instagram)

A search for this headline led to an Oct. 3 article published by The People’s Voice, a site that regularly shares misinformation. The article cited research conducted by a Yale University team y and claimed this "air vaccine will ‘indiscriminately’ force jab the entire planet with mRNA, delivering the toxic chemicals straight into a person’s lungs."

It said the "air vaccine" has been approved by multiple governments, but did not specify which ones.

In August, Yale researchers published results from a study they conducted on whether a messenger RNA, or mRNA, COVID-19 vaccine could be administered without a needle. The researchers found that a vaccine delivered intranasally into animals’ lungs could effectively protect against COVID-19.

This inhalable vaccine, made with nanoparticles carrying the COVID-19 vaccine, was tested on mice, not humans, said Mark Saltzman, a Yale biomedical and chemical engineering professor who led the study.

"Contrary to reports on social media, this airborne technique would not work in humans," Saltzman said. "Humans must receive a controlled dose that is administered directly into the nose."

Additionally, this type of vaccine would need approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration before it would be made available to the public.

Saltzman said his research team did not receive funding from Microsoft Corp. co-founder and philanthropost Gates — who is often the subject of baseless conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 vaccine — or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Instagram post and article did not provide any evidence to support this claim.

The Yale University study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

We rate the claim that a "Bill Gates mRNA air vaccine" has been approved for use "against non-consenting humans" False.

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[George Zimmerman - Fact-checking college enrollment trends in West Virginia]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/george-zimmerman/fact-checking-college-enrollment-trends-in-west-vi/George Zimmerman - Fact-checking college enrollment trends in West VirginiaFri, 06 Oct 2023 21:52:04 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/george-zimmerman/fact-checking-college-enrollment-trends-in-west-vi/

In recent months, West Virginia University’s administration has attracted national attention, and controversy, for making academic cuts driven by budget shortfalls.

One of key factor hurting the university’s finances has been declining enrollment. Separately, PolitiFact West Virginia analyzed the statement that during E. Gordon Gee's WVU presidency, "student enrollments have steadily decreased." We rated that Mostly True.

In a July 1 interview with The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student newspaper, the university’s then-assistant vice president of enrollment management, George Zimmerman, said declining college enrollment throughout West Virginia figured in WVU’s enrollment troubles.

"We have a very small population in the state, and it’s getting smaller in terms of high school graduates," Zimmerman said. "The percentage of students that are going to college has been declining for five years." (In September, Zimmerman began a new job at Penn State University.)

As for West Virginia having a "very small population," he has a point: The state’s population has declined since 2012, with a 4% population loss in just more than a decade.

But is Zimmerman correct that the rate of West Virginia high school students going to college is also declining?

He’s very close.

Data from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission shows that the collegegoing rate has been declining even longer than five years. It’s been falling since at least 2012. 

It dipped from 53.3% in 2012 to 45.9% in 2021. Enrollment ticked up during that span, but minimally, by just fractions of a percentage point. The declines accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, when universities struggled to safely offer in-person education.

The national college enrollment rate has fallen, too, but not as rapidly as West Virginia’s. Nationally, it has fallen from 66% in 2012 to 62% in 2021. West Virginia’s collegegoing rate has also been consistently lower than the national average during that span.

Our ruling

Zimmerman said, "The percentage of students that are going to college (in West Virginia) has been declining for five years."

It’s actually been declining for even longer than that. The rate has fallen from 53.3% in 2012 to 45.9% in 2021. A few years during that span saw increases, but they were minimal.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Aubrey Burkhardt
<![CDATA[Carol Miller - Fact-checking Rep. Carol Miller on gasoline prices under Joe Biden]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/carol-miller/fact-checking-rep-carol-miller-on-gasoline-prices/Carol Miller - Fact-checking Rep. Carol Miller on gasoline prices under Joe BidenFri, 06 Oct 2023 21:41:20 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/carol-miller/fact-checking-rep-carol-miller-on-gasoline-prices/

One of the most common attacks Republicans have used against President Joe Biden as he seeks a second term has been over energy policy, with particular attention to prices at the pump.

In an Aug. 30 in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., echoed this criticism of Biden.

"This summer, Americans experienced firsthand the devastation Bidenomics has on their wallets," Miller said. "Gas prices have skyrocketed since Joe Biden took office and continue to do so everyday. @HouseGOP will fight Biden’s war on energy to lower costs for hardworking Americans."

This summer, Americans experienced firsthand the devastation Bidenomics has on their wallets. Gas prices have skyrocketed since Joe Biden took office and continue to do so everyday.@HouseGOP will fight Biden’s war on energy to lower costs for hardworking Americans.

— Rep. Carol Miller (@RepCarolMiller) August 30, 2023

The term "skyrocketed" is hard to define, so we can’t evaluate that part of Miller’s statement . But we can look at whether prices are higher under Biden, and whether this is Biden’s fault.

Miller’s office did not respond to inquiries for this article.

Are gas prices higher?

Gasoline prices are surely higher under Biden than they were under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.

Data from the Energy Information Administration, a federal agency, shows that the average per-gallon gasoline price during Trump’s four-year term was $2.46. During Biden’s tenure so far, the average has been $3.53. (These figures are not adjusted for inflation.)

Gasoline prices hit $5.01, a record high, under Biden in June 2022. Since then, the price has dropped significantly. At the time of Miller’s post, the price was $3.81; since then, it has fallen slightly to $3.80, during the week of Oct. 2.

Is the increase Biden’s fault?

Experts say that Biden’s policies may have had a marginal effect on gasoline prices but for the most part, the price of gasoline — whether it’s high or low by historical standards — is not something a president can significantly control. 

As PolitiFact has reported, gasoline prices initially rose on Biden’s watch because of the recovery after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic. As economic activity, commuting and travel rebounded, fuel demand rose faster than global supplies did.

Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. NATO countries and allies sought to reduce their purchases of Russian crude oil as punishment for its war, which has hampered supply. And other major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, have largely resisted requests to increase production to fill the void. 

Overall, this has kept global crude oil prices high, even though the price has fallen since its peak in summer 2022.

Trump’s low average price was shaped by the opposite phenomenon that Biden experienced. Most of Trump’s final year in office occurred early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when automobile use was sharply lower. This drove gasoline prices to unusually low levels. 

Another point: Under Biden, the U.S. is on pace to produce a record-high amount of domestic oil.

U.S crude oil production hit a record high under Trump, with 4.49 billion barrels in 2019. However, the trend line suggests that record could be broken once the books close in 2023.

During the 2023’s first six months, the U.S. produced 2.29 billion barrels of crude oil. If production continues at that pace, the total would reach nearly 4.59 billion barrels by year’s end.

Our ruling

Miller said, "Gas prices have skyrocketed since Joe Biden took office and continue to do so everyday." 

Although there’s no precise definition of "skyrocketed," it’s clear that gasoline prices have been higher during Biden’s presidency than under Trump’s. This was especially so during the peak in midsummer 2022; prices are significantly lower today.

Experts say, however, that a president’s ability to shape current gasoline prices is sharply limited. Climbing prices under Biden have more to do with increasing economic activity after the pandemic and diplomatic responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rate it Half True.

Michelle Peribanez
<![CDATA[E. Gordon Gee - Is E. Gordon Gee right that foreign languages aren’t a high priority nationally?]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/e-gordon-gee/is-gordon-gee-right-that-foreign-languages-arent-a/E. Gordon Gee - Is E. Gordon Gee right that foreign languages aren’t a high priority nationally?Fri, 06 Oct 2023 21:36:34 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/e-gordon-gee/is-gordon-gee-right-that-foreign-languages-arent-a/

One of the biggest casualties of program cuts aimed at balancing the West Virginia University budget were foreign languages. 

In the initial round of proposed cuts, the entire WVU Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics was on the chopping block. After an appeal — and a backlash on campus and elsewhere — the university moved to save some Spanish and Chinese courses and five full-time equivalent teaching positions. But courses and degree programs in other languages would be shuttered.

The cuts to foreign languages became perhaps the most controversial element of the administration’s plan, and the Faculty Senate cited it in its proposed resolution of no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee. 

The language cuts are "likely to lead to increased state departures as they limit young people’s access to a comprehensive education, quality language education, global perspectives, and the option to further their education in much-needed areas in-state," the Faculty Senate resolution said. (The resolution passed, but it is nonbinding and Gee remains president.)

Outside the state, critics pounced on the decision to cut back on foreign languages. 

"I can tell you that no other state flagship university has forsaken language education for its students or made the kinds of cuts to the humanities that WVU is undertaking," Paula M. Krebs, executive director of the Modern Language Association, a professional association for U.S. language and literature scholars, wrote to Gee in a letter.

In an interview published Aug. 25 in The Daily Athenaeum, WVU’s student newspaper, Gee defended the proposal.

"Our intent is to continue to have a very robust foreign language program," Gee said. "Not in the same way that we've been doing, but through partnerships. We're looking at a new delivery system. Any student who wants to have a language experience at this institution will be able to have that language experience."

Gee added that foreign languages are "not a high priority nationally." We decided to see whether Gee was correct about that.

We found evidence that fewer students are taking foreign language courses over the past six decades and more recently, though it’s unclear whether this is a question of supply or demand.

Periodic surveys by the Modern Language Association have found that more than 16 college and university students out of every 100 took foreign language courses in 1960, a number that fell to 7.5 per 100 by 2016. This figure also dropped in four surveys taken from 2006 to 2016.

Based on more limited data covering 2020, the Modern Language Association found that foreign language enrollment declined by 15.4% between 2016 and 2020.

Gee’s office also cited data from the National Center for Education Statistics that show the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually across all areas of foreign languages, literatures and linguistics has declined 25% nationally and 30% in WVU’s primary recruiting states from 2010 to 2021. 

However, enrollment may have declined partly because offerings shrank. The Modern Language Association’s 2016 survey found that the number of language programs fell by 5.3% percent from 2013 to 2016.

This chicken-and-egg problem makes it hard to determine whether Gee’s correct that foreign languages are "not a high priority"   because there does appear to be some demand from U.S. companies for foreign-language speakers.

A 2019 survey of 1,200 senior business professionals conducted by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages found that 32% of officials surveyed said they rely on employees with foreign language skills "a lot," and 58% said they rely on such workers "some." Ten percent said they rely "not at all" on workers with foreign language skills.

Meanwhile, a 2019 survey by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences found that adults named foreign languages first among the subjects they wish they’d studied more in college. 

Our ruling

Gee said that foreign languages are "not a high priority" nationally.

There is evidence for Gee’s assertion: Enrollment in foreign language classes at U.S. colleges and universities has declined, both since the 1960s and the early 2000s.

However, it’s unclear whether students and employers are the ones making it a lower priority, or whether they are simply reacting to a diminished supply of college-level courses.

We rate the statement Half True.

Derek Nastasi
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - New York officials didn’t value Mar-a-Lago at $18 million. A Palm Beach property appraiser did]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/facebook-posts/new-york-officials-didnt-value-mar-a-lago-at-18-mi/ Facebook posts - New York officials didn’t value Mar-a-Lago at $18 million. A Palm Beach property appraiser didFri, 06 Oct 2023 21:07:33 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/facebook-posts/new-york-officials-didnt-value-mar-a-lago-at-18-mi/

After a New York judge ruled last month in a fraud lawsuit that former President Donald Trump inflated the value of properties including his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump and his allies argued that New York officials have undervalued the property. 

Mike Davis, who has advised Republican senators on confirmation of federal judges, said in a Oct. 1 Facebook video that "the New York Attorney General and this New York judge says" Mar-a-Lago is "only worth $18 million," which Davis called "ludicrous." Davis is president of the Article III Project, a group that defends constitutionalist judges. 

The Facebook post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Davis’ comments are misleading because New York officials did not determine the property’s value. The property appraiser in Palm Beach County, where Mar-a-Lago is located, assessed the property and determined its value. 

Civil fraud lawsuit says Trump created false valuations 

In 2022, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit alleging that Trump and the Trump Organization created 200 false and misleading valuations of assets in New York, Florida and Scotland to defraud financial institutions. James is seeking $250 million in damages; to bar Trump from serving as an officer in any New York corporation; and to bar him from acquiring any New York real estate over the next five years. Trump has denied wrongdoing, and the civil fraud trial continues as of this publication.

New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron’s Sept. 26 ruling stated that from 2011 to 2021, the Palm Beach County property appraiser determined Mar-a-Lago’s value was "between $18 million and $27.6 million." But Trump’s statements of financial condition presented to investors stated that it was worth between $426 million and $612 million, "an overvaluation of at least 2,300%" Engoron wrote. 

Trump posted on Truth Social that Mar-a-Lago is worth "50 to 100 times" more than the lowest assessed value, $18 million. Media outlets quoted Palm Beach real estate experts who said $18 million was a very low valuation.

When contacted for comment, a Davis spokesperson said, "To say that Mar-a-Lago is worth $18 million is bonkers. There is currently a 2.3 acre lot for sale in Palm Beach for $200 million. It's an empty lot. Mar-a-Lago, on the other hand, is 20 acres and is a historic property with more than 37,000 sq(uare) feet." 

But we aren’t rating on the Truth-O-Meter the appropriate value for Mar-a-Lago. We are fact-checking a claim about who determined the property's value.

Engoron asked the media to stop attributing the $18 million figure to him.

"Please, press, stop saying that I valued it at $18 million," he said in court Oct. 2. "That was a tax assessment. Or, something in that range."

Mar-a-Lago’s county appraisal takes into account the deed restriction

Mar-a-Lago is not valued by the county as if it were a luxury home because it is a private club. Trump in 1995 signed a deed of conservation and preservation easement, which means he ceded the right to use the property for anything other than a social club. 

That means the property appraiser uses an income-based valuation for the property, Becky Robinson, a spokesperson for the property appraiser, told PolitiFact.

"Mar-a-Lago is one of nine deed-restricted clubs in Palm Beach County, and all are valued in the same manner," Robinson said. "The income approach to valuation capitalizes the net operating income that private clubs could generate. This means that the value of the property is determined based on the amount of income that it generates as a club."

That’s different from determining the value of a house, when appraisers consider recent sales of nearby homes, and determine a comparable value. 

The county appraiser is a government office that assesses properties for taxation purposes only.

Property owners can file a petition to challenge the valuation; usually, they seek a lower value to decrease their taxes. In September 2020, a Mar-a-Lago representative filed such a petition, according to the records sent to us by an official for the Palm Beach County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller. But in November 2020, the representative withdrew the petition, marking a box labeled "petitioner agrees with the determination of the property appraiser or tax collector."

Mar-a-Lago is currently valued at about $33.4 million by the Palm Beach County property appraiser, based on a 2023 appraisal. A new valuation will be available Jan. 1.

Davis also said the New York attorney general said that Mar-a-Lago was valued at $18 million. In James’ statement to the media announcing the lawsuit, she said that Mar-a-Lago was valued based on the "false premise" that it could be developed and sold for residential use, despite the deed restrictions. 

"In reality, the club generated annual revenues of less than $25 million and should have been valued at closer to $75 million," her statement said. The Article III Project noted that James said in a post on X that the value was "$25 million."

Our ruling

A Facebook video said New York Attorney General James and Judge Engoron valued Mar-a-Lago at $18 million.

James did not value Mar-a-Lago at $18 million. 

A ruling by Engoron cited the $18 million figure, but he attributed it to the 2011 value determined by the Palm Beach County property appraiser. 

We rate this statement False. 

RELATED: More than 900 fact-checks of Donald Trump

RELATED: In context: What NY Attorney General Letitia James said about Trump that Trump’s video left out

Amy Sherman
<![CDATA[Jesse Watters - In GOP impeachment inquiry, texts don’t prove that Joe Biden was ‘in business’ with Hunter Biden]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/jesse-watters/in-gop-impeachment-inquiry-texts-dont-prove-that-j/Jesse Watters - In GOP impeachment inquiry, texts don’t prove that Joe Biden was ‘in business’ with Hunter BidenFri, 06 Oct 2023 20:08:32 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/jesse-watters/in-gop-impeachment-inquiry-texts-dont-prove-that-j/

A text message emerged as a central point of contention during House Republicans’ first impeachment inquiry hearing into President Joe Biden, with members of Congress arguing about its authenticity and context.

During a Sept. 28 segment of Fox News’ "The Five," host Jesse Watters seized on the moment from the hearing held earlier that day. He quoted just one line from a December 2018 text message exchange between James Biden, the president’s brother, and Hunter Biden, the president’s son. It said, "I can work with you(r) father alone."

Watters said the line from the message shows that Joe Biden was "in business" with Hunter Biden. Republican lawmakers have been working to build a case that the president was involved in his son’s business deals.

"So there goes the, ‘I was never in business with my son,’" Watters said, referring to the White House’s response to those claims. "Because not only were you in business with your son, you were in business with your brother."

(Internet Archive)

But Watters misleads by citing only a single line from the text exchange. An investigators’ longer summary  of the message exchange that was included in an IRS whistleblower’s affidavit shows James Biden’s message to Hunter Biden was about personal financial matters, not business. 

We contacted Fox News for comment, but received no reply. 

Here’s how the discussion of the text message at the impeachment hearing unfolded.

A text message kerfuffle

During the Sept. 28 impeachment inquiry hearing, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., displayed an image that looked like an iPhone screenshot.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., showed this image during the Sept. 28, 2023, impeachment inquiry hearing. (Screenshot from C-SPAN)

"Hunter Biden was in a bad way, by the way," Donalds said, introducing the message. "He was really strung out. He lost a bunch of money. He needed help." 

Later in the hearing, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said the image had been "fabricated" and was "not the actual, direct screenshot from that phone." She asked to share what she called the "full context" of the message exchange.

"What was brought out from that fabricated image excluded critical context that changed the underlying meaning," Ocasio-Cortez said, holding up a printed document that was a portion of the source material for the message Donalds had displayed.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., shows a printed document with part of Exhibit 402 from an Aug. 2, 2023, IRS whistleblower affidavit. (AP)

The text message exchange is from Exhibit 402 in an Aug. 2 affidavit submitted by Joseph Ziegler, an IRS whistleblower who was part of the agency’s criminal investigation into Hunter Biden. Ziegler described the exhibit as "a summary of WhatsApp messages" that he and the investigative team had drafted using "relevant messages from the various Electronic Search Warrant(s)." 

Read in full, Exhibit 402 provides additional context for the messages between James Biden and Hunter Biden. Ellipses show that some information, deemed irrelevant by investigators, was left out. The exhibit detailed messages between James Biden, referred to as James B., and Hunter Biden, who is sometimes referred to as SM in investigation documents.  

The investigators’ summary of the message exchange is below, copied exactly as it appeared in the affidavit exhibit, including typos. We put in bold the section that was highlighted by both Watters and Donalds: 

SM says, "I can work when I’m in NYC all day every day for the next 3 months from 8-12z But I can’t pay alimony w/o Dad or tuitions or for food and gas. Really it’s all gone. I can go make it up in 15/20 days I’m sure, but he’s basically made it clear that he’s not paying alimony b/c Mom made clear that she won’t do it. Hallie wont allow me to be at the house or lend me or pay me back any money. Ashley moves into momoms house after I told dad that I would move in there. (...) That night I tell dad I want to probably stay in the area and specifically I wanted to live by you and teach my course at Penn and maybe develop another one (...)"

in which James B. responds, "This can work, you need a safe harbor. I can work with you father alone !! We as usual just need several months of his help for this to work. Let’s talk about it. It makes perfect sense to me. This is difficult to fully vet without talking. Will you please call me on w/A. We can develope a plan together. It can work. I’m going to try to call yo again please Ans. I can and I will. Crisis with Caroline , same problem with "P", and NY Post. Dealing with it as we speak. She is O K , I believe I have it under control !? I get back to you ASAP."

The summarized exchange shows that James Biden offered to work with Joe Biden to help Hunter cover alimony payments, tuition and the cost of food and gasoline. James Biden’s message is about Hunter’s personal financial matters, not about business deals. 

After House Republicans released IRS whistleblower documents — including Exhibit 402 — on Sept. 27, White House spokesperson Ian Sams said on X, formerly Twitter, that the documents were "another total bust" and showed "zero evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden."

House Republicans in recent months have released financial records that show an intricate web of foreign payments made to Biden family business associates and at least three Biden family members, including Hunter Biden and James Biden. Those records have not provided evidence that foreign payments went to President Joe Biden or that the president committed wrongdoing.

Our ruling

Watters said James Biden’s text message to Hunter Biden that says, "I can work with you(r) father alone," shows that Joe Biden was "in business" with Hunter Biden.

But Watters took out of context a single sentence from a longer text exchange. An investigators’ longer summary of the message exchange shows James Biden offered to work with Joe Biden to help Hunter cover alimony payments, tuition and the cost of food and gasoline. The message was not about business deals. 

We rate this claim False.

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. 

RELATED:  Hunter Biden’s criminal case: What IRS whistleblowers said about Joe Biden, DOJ

RELATED: Hunter Biden investigation: What's a special counsel, and why did Merrick Garland appoint one?

RELATED: Largest share of foreign payments went to Biden associates, not kin, House GOP memos show

Madison Czopek
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - Social media post misleads about flu vaccine ingredients. Here’s what’s in them.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/instagram-posts/social-media-post-misleads-about-flu-vaccine-ingre/ Instagram posts - Social media post misleads about flu vaccine ingredients. Here’s what’s in them.Fri, 06 Oct 2023 19:24:56 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/instagram-posts/social-media-post-misleads-about-flu-vaccine-ingre/

The flu is going around this time of year, and so are misleading social media posts about the vaccines that prevent it.

As health officials recommend people age 6 and older get vaccinated to protect against severe illness from influenza viruses, some anti-vaccine advocates are issuing their own advisories. One such warning we saw gathering thousands of social media interactions included a purported list of "flu shot ingredients."

Included in the recipe, one such Instagram post proclaimed, are monkey kidney cells, antifreeze and human cell cultures from aborted fetuses. 

This Oct. 2 post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) We found other posts across social media using the same image or words.

Most of the ingredients included in the post are not used to make or produce flu vaccines used in the U.S., according to experts and product labels. A few of the listed ingredients are accurate, but the post fails to acknowledge that they are harmless or commonly used.

"Only a few ingredients listed on the image are in influenza vaccines," said Tina Proveaux, communications coordinator for the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

(Screengrab from Instagram)

About the flu vaccines

There are nine influenza vaccines from four different manufacturers in use for the 2023-24 flu season in the U.S., according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, GSK, Seqirus, Sanofi Pasteur, AstraZeneca. Flu activity increases in October and peaks from December to February, according to the CDC.

There are different ingredients in each vaccine. But there are no antifreeze, monkey kidney cells or aborted human cell cultures in a list of influenza vaccine ingredients provided by the Institute for Vaccine Safety, a group that says it aims to provide an "independent assessment of vaccines and vaccine safety."

Nor are there any used as ingredients or in the production process, according to package inserts for each product. Those package inserts are available on a U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, and are linked to in the sources section of this story.

Human fetal cell lines and monkey cell lines have been used to produce vaccines against some other kinds of illnesses, but they are not used for vaccines that fight influenza.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said on its website that "no influenza vaccine available in the U.S. requires the use of fetal cells for production." Even if fetal cells are used to grow other vaccine viruses, the vaccines do not contain these cells or human DNA, the hospital said.

Antifreeze,  which is added to water in automobile cooling systems, commonly uses ethylene glycol, which is poisonous to humans, or propylene glycol, as ingredients. Propylene glycol is a chemical compound used as a food additive and in some medications. It has been used in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. 

But neither ethylene glycol or propylene glycol are used in the flu vaccines.

How are the vaccines made?

The post misleads about some of the other ingredients, too, suggesting cells from dogs and insects are among them.

Seven vaccines use chicken eggs to grow the flu virus included in their formulas; two use different methods to grow the virus — one uses canine kidney cells and another uses insects in their production process, but not as ingredients, as the Instagram post falsely claims.

The Flucelvax Quadrivalent vaccine is the only cell-based flu vaccine in use in the U.S. That vaccine is manufactured using mammalian cells, specifically Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, from a line originating from a cocker spaniel’s kidney in 1958. A package insert for that vaccine said each dose of the vaccine "may contain residual amounts" of MDCK cell protein and cell DNA.

The only other egg-independent flu vaccine is Flublok Quadrivalent, which uses insect cells in its manufacturing. Flublok’s product sheet shows that residual amounts of cell proteins and DNA from the insects may be in the vaccine.

Other ingredients

Some of the other ingredients the post’s list are used in flu vaccines, but are harmless. 

  • Because most of the vaccines are produced using chicken eggs, there may be residual amounts of proteins from these eggs, including ovalbumin, in vaccine doses.

  • Some flu vaccines use formaldehyde, an industrial chemical,  to kill viruses and inactivate bacterial toxins used to make the vaccines. Formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals, but the FDA and the CDC said any residual formaldehyde found in vaccines is lower than the amount found naturally in the human body and poses no safety concern.

  • Thimerosal is an ethylmercury-based preservative that is used only in multi-dose packages of flu vaccines to prevent contamination. It was removed from use in children’s vaccines in 2001 as a precautionary measure. Ethylmercury decomposes, passes through the body quickly and does not cause mercury poisoning. The vast majority of flu vaccines don’t contain thimerosal. People concerned about thimerosal can request a flu vaccine that doesn’t contain the preservative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

  • Porcine gelatin is listed as an ingredient in AstraZeneca’s FluMist nasal spray. That comes from collagen in pigs and is often used as a stabilizer in vaccines. 

  • "Detergent" is a far-reaching term for surfactants, which are chemical compounds that decrease surface tension in liquids. They are used in cleaning detergents, cosmetics, and food, such as ice cream. They are also commonly used in vaccines to blend ingredients together and prevent settling. Some surfactants, such as Polysorbate 80 and sodium Deoxycholate, are listed as being used in flu vaccines. 

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed that flu vaccines contain aborted human cell cultures, monkey kidney cells and antifreeze.

An examination of ingredients and descriptions of the production process for each of the nine flu vaccines used this year in the U.S. shows that’s inaccurate. A few other ingredients listed in the Instagram post, such as canine and insect cells, formaldehyde and gelatin are used to make flu vaccines, but most ingredients listed in the post are not in the vaccines.

We rate the claim False.

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[Joe Biden - Biden said Obama spent hundreds of millions to bury Florida power lines. That lacks evidence]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/joe-biden/biden-said-obama-spent-hundreds-of-millions-to-bur/Joe Biden - Biden said Obama spent hundreds of millions to bury Florida power lines. That lacks evidenceFri, 06 Oct 2023 17:11:03 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/joe-biden/biden-said-obama-spent-hundreds-of-millions-to-bur/

Frozen bottles of water, slushy popsicles and melting ice cream get you only so far when the power goes out in a hurricane. 

After Hurricane Idalia knocked out power to about a half million northern Florida homes and businesses in late August, President Joe Biden said it would have been worse if the federal government hadn’t improved the state’s electrical grid.

"Under the Obama-Biden administration, we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state of Florida replacing wooden power poles with steel poles, and we buried these electric lines," Biden said at the White House Aug. 31.

Days later, Biden surveyed damage in Live Oak, Florida, where broken and downed power lines signaled widespread power outages that commonly follow hurricanes and tropical storms.  Biden said that FEMA could in the future replace the wooden poles with steel poles.

We wondered if Biden was right about the earlier work: Did the Obama administration spend hundreds of millions to keep the lights on (and, most importantly, air conditioning running!) in Florida? 

We contacted multiple federal, state and local government agencies in Florida. We did not find the figure Biden cited. 

FEMA provides grants to bury power lines

Hurricanes cause multiple threats to electricity systems, including flooding and high winds. The U.S. Energy Department in 2020 found that weather-related outages cost from $25 billion to $70 billion a year. 

Nationwide, most lines are above ground. States and utilities have sought ways to pay for bringing poles underground. Florida has hardened its electricity distribution system with stronger steel poles for the larger, high-voltage transmission lines, said Ed Hirs, who teaches energy economics at the University of Houston. Much of that work came after Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992.

Burying power lines can cost up to $1 million per mile — an expense that local and state governments have not wanted to cover. And underground lines can flood, said Joshua D. Rhodes, research scientist at University of Texas at Austin. However,an underground system results in "fewer points of failure than having 100s of miles of lines way up," Rhodes said.

A White House spokesperson referred us to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which sent us a spreadsheet of grants given to states over decades for electrical lines or poles mitigation. 

None of the Florida grants were approved during the Obama-Biden administration. Most of the grants were obligated — federal jargon for approved — during Donald Trump’s administration. The Florida grants added up to about $38 million. For example, FEMA awarded the town of Palm Beach nearly $8.5 million to bury power lines, and the village of Golf was awarded nearly $1.7 million to remove utility poles and bury overhead electrical lines.

But other agencies spend on hurricane proofing, too. So, we kept looking.

HUD provided hazard mitigation grants to Florida following 2016 hurricanes

In this Oct. 18, 2018 photo, utility crews set up new poles and utility wires in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla. It's the greatest need after a hurricane and sometimes the hardest one to fulfill: Electricity. (AP)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also gives hazard mitigation grants. A HUD spokesperson told us that the agency gave about $118 million for Florida after the 2016 hurricanes Hermine and Matthew. 

The initial award, about $47 million for St. Johns County, was listed in a Federal Register notice during the last days of the Obama administration. 

But the information we received from HUD did not specify how much money, if any, was spent on burying electrical lines or replacing wooden poles. 

Florida, through subrecipients, used the money to repair storm-damaged infrastructure, build  affordable housing and rehab homes, according to a statement HUD sent us. Burying electrical lines and replacing poles would qualify as eligible activities, although when the money was allocated, HUD prohibited using it to assist private utilities. That block is no longer in place.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management found one electrical project that received $500,000 during the Obama administration: an underground utility lines project in Coconut Creek, a city in Broward County. A city spokesperson confirmed the project.

We sent a summary of our findings about FEMA and HUD grants back to the White House for comment. 

In response, the White House pointed to Obama’s 2009 announcement about $3.4 billion in grants being awarded nationwide through the 2009 stimulus act for smart electrical grid projects. Obama’s goal was updating the parts of the grid that handle transmission and distribution, which helps the systems respond to power outages. The second part was modernizing electricity on the customer's end, ideally so people could decide to use energy at off-peak times, when it's less expensive.

Florida Power & Light Co., the state’s largest utility,  received $200 million to install smart meters, devices that show hour-by-hour energy pricing, in customers' homes. But nothing in the articles that the White House sent said that the money was for burying electrical lines or replacing wooden poles. 

Florida has pursued some of this work on its own. In 2019, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law S.B. 796, which created a new process for utilities to pass along costs of burying lines, and other grid-strengthening projects, to consumers. Florida Power & Light has been burying power lines in various communities

Florida Power & Light told the Sun Sentinel newspaper’s editorial board that the cost of burying the lines would be up to $35 billion. Florida Power & Light said online that about 45% of its distribution system is underground. That’s the same proportion for Duke Energy Corp., which has about 1.9 million accounts in Florida, a spokesperson told PolitiFact. 

Our ruling 

Biden said, "Under the Obama-Biden administration, we invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the state of Florida replacing wooden power poles with steel poles and we buried these electric lines." 

The White House pointed to FEMA grants, which added up to far less than the amount Biden cited, and to smart electrical grid projects, which are not the same as burying power lines.

If Biden had said that during the Obama administration, the federal government invested hundreds of millions of dollars in electrical-related projects, he would have been on firmer ground. But that’s not what he said. 

We rate this statement False. 

RELATED: All of our fact-checks of President Joe Biden

RELATED: Fact-checking 2024 presidential candidates, who’s running

Amy Sherman
<![CDATA[Mike Gallagher - Gallagher misrepresents China’s role in US fentanyl crisis]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/mike-gallagher/gallagher-misrepresents-chinas-role-in-us-fentanyl/Mike Gallagher - Gallagher misrepresents China’s role in US fentanyl crisisFri, 06 Oct 2023 15:48:23 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/06/mike-gallagher/gallagher-misrepresents-chinas-role-in-us-fentanyl/

As fentanyl deaths have skyrocketed over the past few years, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher is pointing to China for supplying the deadly drug to the United States.

Gallagher, R-Wis., is chairman of the House Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which has given him a national platform on China-related issues. 

In a recent appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show," he said: 

"Beating the Chinese as they attempt to do a variety of things — undermine our sovereignty, send fentanyl into America killing 80,000 Americans a year, threaten war in the Pacific by threatening to take Taiwan — that to me is the biggest national security issue." 

Here, we’ll fact-check China’s role in getting fentanyl into the U.S. and how many people the drug is killing.

The claim is numerically accurate on fentanyl overdoses but misrepresents China’s role in illicit fentanyl trafficking into the U.S.

Let’s take a look.

Fentanyl deaths are on the rise in the US

When asked for backup, Jordan Dunn, Gallagher’s communications director, pointed us to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s final and provisional data on drug overdoses, saying Gallagher’s 80,000 figure gave a general estimate of the overdose numbers.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that the CDC describes as "50 to 100 times more potent than morphine." Illegally manufactured versions of the drug have skyrocketed the U.S.’s opioid overdose crisis in the last decade, according to the CDC’s information webpage on fentanyl.

Gallagher’s estimate is close to fentanyl overdose numbers. 

According to the CDC, provisional numbers for overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, hit 77,415 between April 2022 and April 2023. 

In the latest year for finalized CDC data, 70,601 people died in 2021 from overdoses involving synthetic opioids. Fentanyl compromises about 90% of the deaths in that category.

Illicit fentanyl is primarily coming into the US from Mexico cartels 

Regarding the other part of Gallagher’s claim, that China "sends fentanyl into America," experts say this is a misleading interpretation of the trafficking of fentanyl into the U.S.

Chinese drug producers are primarily creating the chemicals to make fentanyl and sending it to Mexican cartels, not directly to the U.S., said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institute think tank.

Early in the U.S. opioid epidemic, China was the primary source of illicit fentanyl but when the Chinese government banned the production of fentanyl in 2019, Felbab-Brown said producers switched to selling chemicals used in the production of fentanyl.

This created a more roundabout way of getting fentanyl into the U.S.

Other reports have reached similar conclusions: 

According to a 2022 report from the Congressional Research Service, Chinese traffickers no longer send fentanyl directly to the U.S., instead, chemists send the materials to Mexican criminal organizations who then produce the fentanyl.

And according to the 2023 US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Mexico is now "the source of the vast majority" of illicit fentanyl seized in the U.S.

Our ruling

Gallagher said China sends "fentanyl into America killing 80,000 Americans a year."

Fentanyl deaths in the U.S. have spiked in recent years, with over 70,601 overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl occurring in 2021 and an estimated 77,415 occurring in 2022, roughly matching Gallagher’s estimate.

But as far as China’s role in supplying fentanyl to the U.S., Gallagher misses the mark. While China used to be the primary source of illicit fentanyl directly to the U.S., finished products primarily come from Mexico which produces the drug using chemicals from China.

We rate this statement Half True. 


Sophia Voight
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - No, President Joe Biden didn’t admit to a ‘shady role’ in the Hawaii wildfires]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/no-president-joe-biden-didnt-admit-to-a-shady-role/ Facebook posts - No, President Joe Biden didn’t admit to a ‘shady role’ in the Hawaii wildfiresThu, 05 Oct 2023 23:06:33 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/no-president-joe-biden-didnt-admit-to-a-shady-role/

Was President Joe Biden’s latest gaffe revealing himself as responsible for the summer wildfires in Maui, Hawaii? 

A recent Facebook post claims as much, captioning a 40-minute video with this clickbait headline: "Joe Biden MISTAKENLY admits shady role in Maui fires." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Anyone who watched the post’s video may have been disappointed. Far from a smoking gun, the footage is a montage of TV broadcasts about the wildfires, including commentary critical of the president’s response. 

But no "shady role" was exposed. 

We rate claims this video shows Biden accidentally admitting to a role in the fires False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Viral image - Misinterpretation of CDC COVID-19 data leads to misinformation about vaccines]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/viral-image/misinterpretation-of-cdc-covid-19-data-leads-to-mi/ Viral image - Misinterpretation of CDC COVID-19 data leads to misinformation about vaccinesThu, 05 Oct 2023 23:04:19 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/viral-image/misinterpretation-of-cdc-covid-19-data-leads-to-mi/

Did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention falsify data about COVID-19 deaths to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against the disease? 

That’s what a recent headline claims: "CDC admits it faked 99% of COVID deaths to scare public into taking vaccine."   

An Instagram post sharing it was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The blog post that published the headline Aug. 31 goes on to say that "newly released data from the CDC reveals that most recorded fatalities that were blanket-blamed on COVID were caused by something else."

The post’s logic appears to be that because the CDC reported that "just 1.7% of the 324 ‘COVID deaths’ registered in the week ending Aug. 19 had COVID as the primary cause of death," then "only a fraction of the claimed number of American lives are being lost directly to the virus each week." The post purported that CDC data showed "99 percent of ‘Covid deaths’ have been faked."

The post followed an Aug. 28 Daily Mail story that bore the headline: "99% of ‘COVID deaths’ not primarily caused by the virus, CDC data shows." 

That headline has since been updated to say: "Covid to blame for just 1% of weekly deaths from all causes across the US, CDC data shows."

"An earlier version of this article claimed 99% of COVID deaths in the past week were not primarily caused by the virus," a correction appended to the bottom of the article says. "In fact, a footnote at the bottom of the CDC’s COVID data tracker explains the percentage of all reported deaths attributed as COVID-19 is calculated based on the number of deaths from all causes."

For the week ended Sept. 23, 2.7% of deaths in the United States were caused by COVID-19, the CDC’s data shows.

We rate claims that the CDC admitted it faked data to scare the public into getting COVID-19 vaccines False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Video falsely claims the next deadly global pandemic is here]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/video-falsely-claims-the-next-deadly-global-pandem/ Facebook posts - Video falsely claims the next deadly global pandemic is hereThu, 05 Oct 2023 21:32:06 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/video-falsely-claims-the-next-deadly-global-pandem/

A video featuring ominous images of oversized viruses and people in medical masks warns that a pandemic more devastating than the one caused by COVID-19 is here.

"A new deadly pandemic is at our doorstep," the Oct. 2 Facebook video claimed. "The new threat comes in the form of an unknown virus, more lethal and more contagious than anything we have experienced before."

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screengrab from Facebook)

The Facebook video also mentions World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning about the next pandemic.

During his May address to the World Health Assembly, Tedros said the end of the COVID-19 global health emergency does not mean the virus is no longer a concern.

"The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains. And the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains," he said.

Nevertheless, no new global health crisis has been declared.

The World Health Organization maintains a list of "priority pathogens" to identify and prepare for diseases that could cause global outbreaks or pandemics. The current priority diseases are:

  • COVID-19

  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

  • Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease

  • Lassa fever

  • Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

  • Nipah and henipaviral diseases

  • Rift Valley fever

  • Zika

  • "Disease X"

According to the World Health Organization, Disease X "represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease."

Conspiracy theorists have hijacked the term Disease X to spread baseless narratives that future pandemics are "planned" or "money-making scams."

The World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health authorities track disease outbreaks around the globe and send alerts to the public about emerging health threats. But, as of Oct. 5, there were no reports of an unknown disease causing widespread infection.

We rate the claim that "a new deadly pandemic is at our doorstep" False.

RELATED: What is Disease X? How conspiracy theorists hijacked pandemic preparedness 

RELATED: COVID-19 lockdowns returning? Here’s why public health experts say that’s unlikely

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - You can pass the salt: Bill Gates and the FDA aren’t coming for it]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/instagram-posts/you-can-pass-the-salt-bill-gates-and-the-fda-arent/ Instagram posts - You can pass the salt: Bill Gates and the FDA aren’t coming for itThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:51:25 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/instagram-posts/you-can-pass-the-salt-bill-gates-and-the-fda-arent/

A headline being shared on social media reads like a misinformation Mad Lib: "FDA wants to replace salt with Bill Gates’ new mRNA fake salt." 

An Instagram post sharing it was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A statement from the Food and Drug Administration said the claim is "fake."

In April 2023, the FDA issued a proposed rule to amend its "standards of identity" to allow the use of salt substitutes in foods that use salt.

The FDA’s standards of identity were first established in 1939 to "ensure that the characteristics, ingredients and production processes of specific foods are consistent with what consumers expect," according to the agency’s website

Consider jams that contain fruits. Because some such products once contained "little fruit," according to the FDA, the standards of identity for fruit preserves and jams require that products represented as jam contain a minimum amount of fruit.

But back to salt.

"The proposed rule would provide manufacturers with flexibility and facilitate industry innovation to reduce sodium in standardized foods," said the statement the FDA sent to PolitiFact. "The proposed rule does not list permitted salt substitutes; however, it makes clear that safe and suitable ingredients should be used to replace some or all of the added sodium chloride and that serve the functions of salt in food."

Information about the proposed rule on the FDA’s website says, "The proposal would not require manufacturers to replace salt with salt substitutes." 

It mentions neither mRNA nor Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates.

We rate this post False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[Donald Trump - Fact-check: Donald Trump’s repeated falsehood that he saved the U.S. auto industry]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/donald-trump/fact-check-trumps-repeated-falsehood-that-he-saved/Donald Trump - Fact-check: Donald Trump’s repeated falsehood that he saved the U.S. auto industryThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:36:14 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/donald-trump/fact-check-trumps-repeated-falsehood-that-he-saved/

As United Auto Workers strike against the leading U.S. automakers, former President Donald Trump took credit for saving the auto industry.

"When I came into office, the auto industry was on its knees, gasping its last breaths after eight long years of Obama and Biden," Trump told nonunion autoworkers Sept. 27 at Drake Enterprises in Clinton Township, outside Detroit. "It is no exaggeration to state the Trump presidency and the deftly used and applied Trump tariffs and taxes saved the American auto industry from extinction time and time again."

But recent history shows the reality is the opposite: Trump neither inherited a nearly dead auto industry nor revived it. Experts say the Bush and Obama administrations helped boost the auto industry while Trump administration actions hurt it.

Bush and Obama administrations’ actions

In 2008, as the Great Recession was hurting the U.S., the auto industry was in dire shape. Layoffs were soaring at auto plants and auto parts suppliers. Gasoline prices were up. Buying power was down. General Motors was nearly out of cash to pay its bills and Chrysler was close behind.

Interventions by the outgoing George W. Bush and newly elected Barack Obama administrations pulled the industry back from the brink of collapse. Under Obama, GM and Chrysler underwent quick, taxpayer-financed bankruptcy reorganizations orchestrated by a federal task force and the U.S. Treasury Department. Both auto companies emerged healthily from the Great Recession, adding jobs and production capacity. 

"At its basic level, the car companies got a well-financed restructuring, and the financier was the government," Mike Ramsey, an automotive analyst and senior research director at consulting company Gartner told Business Insider in 2018. "The companies were essentially given a clean balance sheet and reset to a point that made them viable."

Manufacturing output of motor vehicles and parts rose along with employment in Michigan’s auto sector during the Obama administration. 

The Center for Automotive Research examined major investments in the auto industry and found that from 2013 to 2016, during the Obama administration, $47.3 billion in work was announced. By comparison, during the Trump years, 2017 to 2020, $38 billion in projects were announced. 

Trump cites trade deals and tariffs that, taken together, did not yield net industry gains

In his Michigan speech, Trump cited several of his trade policies that he said helped the industry. An expert we spoke to pointed to one Trump tariff that led to a small increase in U.S. auto parts production. But the majority of Trump’s policies hurt the industry or had no significant impact during Trump’s presidency.

Tariffs on Chinese imports: Trump imposed tariffs up to 25% on China’s auto production in 2018. Although Trump’s tariffs aimed to punish China, U.S. companies got many parts from other countries, said Katheryn N. Russ, chair of the University of California, Davis’ economics department. At the same time, the U.S. International Trade Commission (see table 6.23) found that these tariffs led to a 3% increase in U.S. domestic gross output in auto parts production.

But China retaliated, raising tariffs on U.S. exports to China. Beijing’s tariffs led to a significant reduction in U.S. auto exports to China, said Brad Setser, a U.S. trade official during the Biden administration. In response to the tariffs, Tesla also bought a subsidiary in China and its Shanghai production began exporting to the EU while U.S. exports of electric vehicles to both China and Europe fell sharply. 

Trump’s campaign told PolitiFact that without the tariffs he imposed on China, the U.S. might have seen the soaring number of car imports from China that the E.U. experienced. 

Renegotiated Korea Free Trade agreement: As part of Trump’s renegotiation of this agreement, he extended until 2041 a 25% U.S. tariff on imports of small pickup trucks.

But James Rubenstein, a Miami University in Ohio geography professor known for his auto industry research, said the tariff is largely "symbolic" because "Hyundai/Kia, which is responsible for most vehicle production in Korea, does not produce a pickup truck." 

Stopped Trans-Pacific Partnership: In his first month in office, Trump ordered the U.S. to withdraw from this free trade deal with 11 Asian-Pacific countries. Obama had negotiated the agreement, but it was never implemented. No one knows with certainty what the impact of this deal would have been on the auto industry.

Replaced NAFTA with USMCA: Trump replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, in place since 1994, with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The new agreement took effect July 2020 and aimed to encourage auto manufacturers to source auto parts from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. It required that 75% of an automobile’s components be manufactured in those three countries to qualify for zero tariffs. NAFTA had required that 62.5% of the components be manufactured in those three countries. 

Gary Hufbauer, an economist and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington, D.C., think tank, said that although the USMCA changes tightened the auto production rules, they made little difference in the U.S. auto industry.  

That’s partly because auto manufacturers seem to prefer the alternative option of paying the 2.5% Most Favored Nation tariff on imported parts or assembled automobiles from Canada and Mexico, which is often cheaper and simpler than adhering to the rules-of-origin requirements. 

Automotive News’ data shows the number of vehicles assembled throughout the United States by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler parent Stellantis. In 2008, Obama’s first year in office, 5 million vehicles were assembled. That rose to 6.3 million in 2016, Obama’s final year. In 2019, the last year of Trump’s presidency before the pandemic, the number fell to 4.5 million vehicles. 

Trump steel tariffs hurt auto industry

One of Trump’s tariff actions hampered the U.S. auto industry, sparking the loss of thousands of jobs.

In March 2018, Trump imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum, with exemptions for Canada and Mexico. The move was intended to punish China.  

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors found that by mid-2019, increased input costs related to the steel and aluminum tariffs were associated with 0.6% fewer jobs in the manufacturing sector. Based on those figures, Russ and Harvard University economics doctoral student Lydia Cox found that equated to about 75,000 fewer jobs in manufacturing. That figure did not include additional losses experienced by U.S. exporters that faced tariffs levied by other countries in retaliation. 

"It is hard to find a plausible explanation for how levying a tax on a key input for the auto industry would have been beneficial to the auto industry," Russ said.

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, told Reuters in October 2020 that the tariffs hurt the industry. GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, now part of Stellantis, all closed plants in Michigan since 2018, the year the tariffs were imposed. It cost GM and Ford $1 billion each for increased steel costs in 2018.

We found accumulating evidence that Trump’s overall tariff strategy backfired. A December 2020 summary from the Congressional Research Service, Congress’ nonpartisan policy arm, said most studies "suggest a negative overall effect on U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of the tariffs" and that most studies found U.S. consumers and companies "bore nearly the entire increased costs associated with the tariffs."

Our ruling

When Trump took office, "the auto industry was on its knees gasping its last breath." Trump administration "tariffs and taxes saved the American auto industry from extinction."

Trump is wrong on both counts. Actions by the Bush and Obama administrations helped revive the auto industry; it was not near death when Trump took office.

The majority of Trump’s trade deals and tariffs hurt the auto industry or had no significant impact during his presidency. In particular, Trump’s 2018 tariffs on steel and aluminum significantly hurt the U.S. auto industry.

We rate this statement False.

PolitiFact Senior Correspondent Jon Greenberg contributed to this fact-check.

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Louis Jacobson
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - Former President Donald Trump isn’t the commander in chief]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/instagram-posts/former-president-donald-trump-isnt-the-commander-i/ Instagram posts - Former President Donald Trump isn’t the commander in chiefThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:35:36 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/instagram-posts/former-president-donald-trump-isnt-the-commander-i/

"Big news!" a recent Instagram post said. "Trump is commander & chief." 

The supposed evidence that former President Donald Trump is still running the nation is offered in a video in the Oct. 3 post. 

"This was Dan Scavino posting a clip of President Trump departing Costa Mesa," a narrator in the video said. "You can see President Trump posing there with the police … he’s got those guards all around him and he’s got the Secret Service all around him. Guys, we’ve seen the vehicles all around him. Many people are posting, look, there’s no way that he’s got all those vehicles, medical, comms, truck, unless he’s running the nation, unless he’s the commander in chief." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post refers to a video shared Sept. 30 on Instagram by Dan Scavino Jr., a Trump adviser. 

"45 department beautiful Costa Mesa, California!" Scavino wrote. "#TRUMP2024 #MAGA #USA."

Scavino was in Costa Mesa for a ticketed "special evening event" with the former president. 

Scavino’s video shows Trump posing for a photo with several armed police officers, leaving a building and waving at supporters. Flashing lights are visible from emergency service vehicles. 

The video then cuts to what appears to be a recording shot from inside Scavino’s moving car. It shows more supporters bearing flags and waving, while some police and medical vehicles line the road. 

Trump is not the commander in chief. President Joe Biden now holds that role. 

It’s not unusual for a former president to come under protection after leaving office, or for local agencies to help. In June, for example, the Columbus Police Department in Georgia provided a motorcade for Trump.

In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service to protect former presidents and their spouses during their lifetime. Major presidential and vice presidential candidates can also receive Secret Service protection. 

"In order to maintain a safe environment for the president and other protectees, the Secret Service calls upon other federal, state and local agencies to assist on a daily basis," the Secret Service says. 

We rate claims Trump is commander in chief Pants on Fire!

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Don’t freak out: This claim about Oprah Winfrey and missing children in Maui, Hawaii, is unfounded]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/dont-freak-out-this-claim-about-oprah-winfrey-and/ Facebook posts - Don’t freak out: This claim about Oprah Winfrey and missing children in Maui, Hawaii, is unfoundedThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:29:05 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/dont-freak-out-this-claim-about-oprah-winfrey-and/

Media magnate Oprah Winfrey has been a regular target of misinformation since wildfires ravaged Maui, Hawaii, in August. 

Now a Facebook post suggests she’s connected to the disappearance of more than a dozen missing children on the island. 

"Oprah FREAKS OUT after 15 kids are finally found on Maui," reads text over a video shared  Oct. 2 on Facebook. The words "save the children" appear below it.

"Why are people speculating about Oprah for this incident?" someone in the video says. "Is she involved in such a horrific alleged act? You are about to find out." 

The narrator later says, "There are still some children unaccounted for, so in light of Oprah’s alleged past involvement in similar incidents, some individuals are now raising awareness about her possible connection to this supposed latest tragedy." 

The video then cuts to a man saying, "Where are the kids, Oprah? It was only two and a half weeks ago, and now we’re not allowed to talk about it, we’re not free in this country." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We found no credible news reports or other authoritative sources to corroborate this post’s claim. We did find a YouTube video that includes some of the clips in the Instagram post’s video, and it refers to an unfounded and debunked story about Navy SEALs finding "15 missing Maui children imprisoned in padlocked cages lined with piddle pads."

Around the time that story was published Sept. 17, only one of 31 people unaccounted for was a known minor, according to the Maui Police Department and FBI.

We rate claims that Oprah "freaked out" over this fake news story, much less that she’s responsible for missing minors in Maui, False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Former President Donald Trump doesn’t control the military, but not everyone believes it]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/former-president-donald-trump-doesnt-control-the-m/ Facebook posts - Former President Donald Trump doesn’t control the military, but not everyone believes itThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:19:33 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/former-president-donald-trump-doesnt-control-the-m/

Although Donald Trump is a former president and aspiring to a second term, he doesn’t control the U.S. military, as a recent Facebook post claims. 

"Trump controls US military!" the Oct. 4 post says. 

It was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post’s 33-minute video provides no credible evidence to support this claim. Perhaps because there is none. 

Rather, it’s a montage of clips including unrelated Fox News broadcasts, TikTok videos and social media posts.

President Joe Biden is commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, giving him authority to make decisions affecting each of the military branches. But, as the bipartisan Stennis Center for Public Service points out, the Constitution also gives Congress power to oversee the military. 

Someone who doesn’t wield such control? Trump. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Fake news about a DNA test-related beheading recirculates on social media]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/fake-news-about-a-dna-test-related-beheading-recir/ Facebook posts - Fake news about a DNA test-related beheading recirculates on social mediaThu, 05 Oct 2023 19:16:05 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/oct/05/facebook-posts/fake-news-about-a-dna-test-related-beheading-recir/

A recent Facebook post warns about false positives in DNA testing but uses a fake headline to prove its point. 

"Man cuts off wife’s head after DNA test proved none of 6 kids are his own," the headline says below a man’s photo and a woman’s photo. 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A reverse-image search led to real 2013 news headlines about a man who stabbed his wife in London because he suspected she was having an affair with the neighbor.

The articles showed photos that appear to be the same man and woman from the Facebook post, but they don’t mention DNA or paternity. 

Other inauthentic news stories that use their pictures give the victim a different name and dateline. Supposedly, the alleged beheading happened in "Mountain View."

We rate claims that a man beheaded his wife following a DNA test False.

Ciara O'Rourke