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

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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:


Claims misrepresent 1,850 boxes of Biden documents at Delaware university

CLAIM: President Joe Biden withheld 1,850 boxes of classified documents from his time as vice president.

THE FACTS: The National Archives and Records Administration says the boxes of files referenced in that figure are actually Biden’s Senate papers, which are housed at the University of Delaware. The federal agency told the AP that the files of Congress members are considered their personal property and are not subject to the same restrictions as presidential records, which are considered government property. While the FBI has searched the Delaware university records as part of a larger search for classified documents, there is no evidence they were withheld from authorities in any way. As former President Donald Trump faces federal charges of illegally hoarding White House documents, he has repeatedly drawn comparisons to the boxes of government records kept by Biden as proof he’s being unfairly persecuted. “By the way, Biden’s got 1,850 boxes,” Trump said at a recent campaign rally in Georgia. “He’s fighting them on the boxes. He doesn’t want to give the boxes and then they say, ‘Trump is obstructioning’.” On social media, supporters have echoed the figure. But the 1,850 boxes referred to in these claims are being falsely conflated with classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president that have been found in other locations, such as one of his former office in Washington and his Delaware home. Instead, the university documents are from the Democrat’s many years serving in Congress as a U.S. senator from Delaware, according to NARA and the University of Delaware. Biden donated the files to his alma mater more than a decade ago. Daniel Holt, an assistant historian in the U.S. Senate’s Historical Office, also cited the chamber’s website, which states that “records created and maintained within a senator’s office are the property of the senator.” David Super, a professor of law and economics at Georgetown University’s law school, added that the documents Biden provided to the university aren’t subject to the Presidential Records Act, which Trump and his allies have frequently and misleadingly invoked. “Mr. Biden was incapable of creating records of his own presidency before he was elected president,” he wrote in an email. While the records are not currently available to the public, there is no indication Biden has resisted the FBI’s efforts to review or retrieve documents from the university — nor any other location where the agency has been investigating, added Super. Indeed, the White House disclosed in January that a lawyer for Biden had located what was described as a “small number” of classified documents from his time as vice president during a search of a former office space in Washington. The documents were turned over to the Justice Department, as were an additional batch found at Biden’s house in Wilmington, Delaware. The agency, which didn’t respond to emails seeking comment, also searched the documents at the University of Delaware this past winter, the AP reported at the time. So far, it hasn’t announced any findings from this location. A White House spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which didn’t immediately respond. Peter Bothum, a spokesperson for the University of Delaware, similarly deferred questions to the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI. But he also noted the university has created a website with additional details about the Biden senate papers in its holdings. The more than 1,850 boxes of archival records arrived at the university library in June 2012 and cover Biden’s nearly four decades in the Senate from 1973 to 2009. A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. On Tuesday, the Republican pleaded not guilty in Miami federal court to 37 counts related to the mishandling of sensitive government records.

— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.


Massachusetts church was not holding same-sex wedding when it was hit by lightning and burned down

CLAIM: A church in Boston was hosting a same-sex wedding ceremony when it was hit by lightning, sparking a fire that left no survivors.

THE FACTS: The First Congregational Church in the town of Spencer — which is in central Massachusetts, not the Boston area — did burn down on June 2 after it was hit by lightning. But there was no wedding being held at the time, nor any injuries reported, the local fire chief told the AP. The church caught fire on a Friday afternoon earlier this month when a storm was moving through the area, the AP reported. Social media users initially shared video of the church engulfed in flames with posts containing homophobic rhetoric and criticizing the church’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues. The church’s Facebook page has published positive messages about Pride month in the past. But in recent days, some users shared the footage with false claims that the blaze took place in Boston and that it occurred amid a same-sex wedding ceremony. A video shared on TikTok and Twitter shows the steeple of a church building ablaze as it slowly falls to the ground. “Church burnt down by a lightening, in Boston, In the USA, during a marriage ceremony of homosexual couple. No survival from the participants,” reads one post on Twitter, misspelling “lightning.” However, the historic church in Spencer — about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Worcester — was closed when the fire broke out, not hosting a wedding, according to Spencer Fire Chief Robert Parsons. No injuries were reported in the fire, which drew nearly 100 firefighters from close to 20 departments. “There was no wedding going on and actually the church was closed up and locked. No one was working in the church,” Parsons said in an email. Parsons and the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services also confirmed the cause of the fire was a lightning strike. Jake Wark, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts fire service, said state police fire investigators worked with local officials to determine that the lightning started a blaze in the building’s attic, which rapidly spread through the wood-framed structure. Parsons previously told the AP that the building was a total loss.

— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Los Angeles contributed this report.


Fabricated Trump Truth Social post about Walt Nauta circulates after court appearance

CLAIM: A screenshot shows a Truth Social post from former President Donald Trump saying his personal aide and alleged co-conspirator Walt Nauta was the one who packed up his “personal papers” when he left the White House.

THE FACTS: The image is fabricated and Trump never posted such a statement on Truth Social. Many social media users shared the bogus post as real after Trump pleaded not guilty to dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding classified documents, suggesting it showed the former president was pointing the finger at Nauta for possessing any classified documents. Nauta, Trump’s valet before joining him as personal aide in Mar-a-Lago, was indicted last week on charges that he moved boxes of documents at Trump’s direction and then misled the FBI about it. Nauta did not enter a plea Tuesday because he did not have a local lawyer with him. The post circulating on social media shows Trump’s Truth Social profile. “Many people are saying the theft of Nuclear and Military Secrets is a very serious crime,” it begins. The post goes on to say that Trump asked his “LOYAL aide Walt Nauta” to pack personal documents before leaving the White House and is confident Nauta didn’t “place any Nuclear Secrets” inside because he knew that would get the former president in “trouble.” “So let’s just see what Judge Cannon says. Good Luck, Walt! We are behind you all the way!” it ends. While Trump did publish a flurry of posts on his social media platform about the case before and after his court appearance, the post shown in the image was not one of them. Trump’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment, but the supposed post does not currently appear on Trump’s profile and archived versions of the profile also do not show the post. The image circulating on social media also contains signs it is not real, including a watermark from, a meme generator website that allows users to mimic Trump’s Truth Social posts. The text in the screenshot also goes over the platform’s 500-character limit. Trump did post about Nauta on Truth Social on June 9, but it was to protest his inclusion in the indictment. “They are trying to destroy his life, like the lives of so many others, hoping that he will say bad things about ‘Trump.’ He is strong, brave, and a Great Patriot. The FBI and DOJ are CORRUPT!” Trump wrote.

— Karena Phan


Posts misrepresent data on terrorism and migration in Poland

CLAIM: A map shows that Poland has not been the target of any terror attacks, the lack of which is a result of the country’s “strict no-migrants policy.”

THE FACTS: The map only shows terror attacks from 2012 through 2015 — but the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows six such attacks in Poland since 2015 and dozens prior to 2012. Additionally, Poland is open to migrants as a member of the European Union, and experts say the data shows migrants are in fact more likely to be victims of terror than perpetrators. Yet a screenshot of the map spread online in recent days alongside the erroneous claim. “Here is a map of terror attacks in Europe,” one tweet states. “Poland has a strict no-migrants policy. Draw your own conclusions.” It is true that the map, built by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, does not show any terror attacks in Poland. However, while the map only shows attacks recorded in the Global Terrorism Database over a four-year period, the database has records of attacks from 1970 through 2020. During that time, Poland has seen 42 terror attacks. CSIS did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Erin Miller, program manager of the Global Terrorism Database, told the AP that using the map to make a wider point about migration and terrorism is a flawed premise given how selective the data is. While Poland does have lower levels of migration than other countries in the European Union, it doesn’t have a “no-migrants policy.” As a member of the EU, Poland must adhere to freedom of movement rights, which allow EU citizens and their families to reside freely in member countries. As of late May 2023, approximately 1.6 million Ukrainian refugees from the Russia-Ukraine war were registered for temporary protection in Poland, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Regardless, the map doesn’t show that terror attacks in the countries with higher migration rates were perpetrated by migrants, as the posts suggest, noted Miller. In fact, she added, most terror attacks are carried out by “domestic assailants,” and immigrants are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. The interactive CSIS map includes numerous examples of such attacks on migrants, and the entire Global Terrorism Database includes more than 150 attacks that targeted refugees and asylum-seekers in Western Europe over the past decade — a figure Miller said is considered to be “extremely conservative.” Countries that experience an influx of people do tend to have an increase in terrorist activities, said Daniel Meierrieks, a research fellow at the Berlin Social Science Center with expertise in international migration and terrorism. But that’s simply because more populous countries have more attacks, not because the migrants are the ones responsible, he added. To the extent that there is a relationship to migration, especially in the case of people coming to Europe from non-European countries, it’s due to the attacks on the migrants — not by them, according to Meierrieks and Richard McAlexander, a data analyst who studied terrorism and international borders as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. “You’re in a new country,” McAlexander said of migrants. „You’ve suffered some trauma. You’re in a precarious position. And the last thing you want to do is jeopardize all of that.”

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.


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