Facts Matter: Fake news follows Houston concert tragedy

  • The crowd watches as Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival on Nov. 5 at NRG park in Houston. Nine people have died in what officials describe as a surge of the crowd at the music festival while Scott was performing.

    The crowd watches as Travis Scott performs at Astroworld Festival on Nov. 5 at NRG park in Houston. Nine people have died in what officials describe as a surge of the crowd at the music festival while Scott was performing. Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle via Associated Press

Updated 11/13/2021 12:11 PM

Nine people died and hundreds more were injured after the crowd rushed the stage during a Nov. 5 Travis Scott concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston. As with many tragedies, the internet hosted plenty of false information about what happened.

"$2 billion company LiveNation is so happy y'all blaming that incident completely on Travis Scott like they didn't just schedule a 50k person event at a 20k capacity venue," read a Facebook post shared more than 4,500 times.


That claim is wrong, according to USA Today. The Houston Fire Department said the venue could have accommodated more than 200,000 concertgoers but attendance was limited to 50,000.

The person who posted the original Facebook claim told USA Today the information came from "one of the various news coverage pieces from Sunday" but admitted possibly hearing it wrong.

Houston's NRG Park includes an arena, convention center and stadium but the Astroworld Festival was held in the parking lot of the complex which, based on fire codes, could have allowed many more people.

"There is no occupancy permit for an outdoor event," Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said during a Nov. 6 news conference.

Other social media posts claimed the concert and the ensuing deaths were part of a satanic ritual.

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But this claim is unfounded, according to PolitiFact. Although the investigation into the matter is ongoing, there is no evidence it was anything other than a crowd surge that caused the injuries and deaths.

"My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival," Scott said in a statement.

Vaccinated people reduce spread of COVID-19

A radio talk show host falsely claimed there is no benefit to others if a person is vaccinated.

"Your health choices are your business. There is no added safety to the public if you're vaccinated. Period," Joe Paglilarulo said.

That's false, according to PolitiFact. The vaccination not only helps prevent infection to the person who received it, but it also reduces the spread among the general public.


"Vaccination reduces one's risk of getting sick in the first place -- one cannot transmit if one is not infected," Johns Hopkins University professor Dr. David Dowdy told PolitiFact.

Studies have shown that the unvaccinated are more likely than the vaccinated to get COVID-19 and are more likely to spread it, become seriously ill or die.

"Getting everyone ages 5 years and older vaccinated can protect families and communities, including friends and family who are not eligible for vaccination and people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote on its website, cdc.gov.

Climate summit criticism uses old photo

World leaders met last week at the United Nations' climate summit, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss cutting methane emissions and protecting the world's forests.

A post on Twitter, accompanied by a photo of hundreds of jets on the ground, criticized the group for what it claimed was a contradictory message.

But the image isn't from the summit, but rather from the 2013 Super Bowl, according to The Associated Press.

"These are the 400 jets used by #COP26Glasgow attendees to get to a conference on reducing emissions and fossil fuels. Clearly there will be fierce competition here for the Hypocrisy Awards," read the Twitter post, which was shared 9,000 times and received 23,000 likes.

The photo shows nearly 700 business jets that had been flown to the Super Bowl in New Orleans. The image was part of a Feb. 5, 2013, story by Aviation International News headlined, "Super Bowl Sunday was a super day for Bizav (Business Aviation)." New Orleans photographer David Spielman confirmed to AP that he took the photo.

Spacewalk photo has been altered

A photo posted on Facebook shows astronaut Bruce McCandless II during the first untethered spacewalk floating above Earth.

"This is a real image of an astronaut that ventured 320 feet from the orbiter, he was 170 miles above earth. It's arguably one of the best astronaut related photos ever taken!" reads the post.

But it's not a real image, according to USA Today.

The photo uses a 1984 image of McCandless making the historic spacewalk. However, the snow-capped mountain range below was added to the doctored photo.

Facebook user and photographer Tianxiao Zhang told USA Today the added Earth's surface was from a mountain range photo he took during a flight from Toronto to Beijing.

"I assumed my description under the Flickr post is clear enough, but obviously not so for Facebook. I honestly never thought anyone would think this is real," Zhang said.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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