Facts Matter: Fake news quickly follows latest gun tragedy

  • Police walk near Robb Elementary School after the shooting there Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas.

    Police walk near Robb Elementary School after the shooting there Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. Associated press

Updated 5/28/2022 5:30 PM

A horrific shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 19 children and two teachers dead was immediately followed by fake news circulating on social media.

The most vile is the claim that it didn't happen.


"Don't be fooled. False Flag season is here," read one tweet.

Sadly, it did happen. The 18-year-old shooter was shot by Border Patrol officers inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, to end the rampage Tuesday.

Police released a photo of the gunman, which a Twitter user claimed was doctored before being broadcast on "Good Morning America."

"ABC News altered Salvador Ramos's photo to appear more Caucasian," read the tweet that included side-by-side images. One is a photo of the gunman, and the other is a screenshot of what appears to be a tweet from ABC News showing him with lighter skin and altered features.

The photo was altered, but it wasn't done by ABC News, according to PolitiFact. The altered photo was pasted over the photo in an actual report from ABC News.

A spokesperson for ABC News told PolitiFact that the group didn't use a doctored photo of the gunman in any of its broadcasts.

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Additionally, a miscaptioned photo appeared in a Facebook post, along with a false claim.

"These are the victims of the massacre today in Uvalde, Texas," the Facebook user claimed.

They're not. The photo actually shows 20 students and six adults who were killed in 2012 in Newton, Connecticut, PolitiFact said.

Trump's claim doesn't add up

Former President Donald Trump, during a recent speech in Austin, Texas, emphasized his accomplishments while in office.

"When I was in charge, in 18 months, we didn't lose one American soldier," Trump said. "In 18 months in Afghanistan, we lost nobody."

But that doesn't add up, according to The Associated Press. There is no year-and-a-half stretch during Trump's presidency in which there were no casualties from combat.


During Trump's time in office, Jan. 20, 2017 to Jan. 20, 2021, there were 45 combat deaths and 18 non-hostile deaths among U.S. service members in Afghanistan.

There is an 18-month stretch in which there were no combat deaths, from February 2020 to August 2021. Joe Biden was president for approximately seven months of that time.

Monkey pox outbreak not related to crash

A Facebook meme suggests the recent monkey pox outbreak can be traced to lab monkeys involved in a Pennsylvania crash in January.

The post from earlier this month displays three headlines: "Don't approach lab monkey missing after Pennsylvania crash, people told," from Jan. 22; "Woman who helped monkeys in Pennsylvania crash experiencing health issues: report," Jan. 25; and "CDC monitors 6 people in US for possible rare monkey pox, says public 'should not be concerned,'" from May 25.

But there is no evidence the crash has anything to do with the monkey pox outbreak, according to PolitiFact.

A truck towing a trailer of 100 monkeys in January, on the way to a Florida facility, was involved in a crash with a dump truck in Pennsylvania. At the scene, a woman was exposed to the monkeys and later had minor symptoms, including a cough and pink eye, but she did not have the painful skin rash that comes with monkey pox.

Also, the incubation period for monkey pox is usually no more than 21 days. The recent monkey pox outbreak began in mid-May, months after the crash.

Three of the monkeys involved in the crash were euthanized after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a public health risk assessment, but the CDC didn't say why the animals were euthanized, PolitiFact said. The other 97 monkeys were quarantined and monitored for disease.

Cartoon character not trans woman

A meme recently posted on Twitter suggests CNN reported that Pop, a member of the cartoon trio Snap, Crackle and Pop, of Kellogg's Rice Krispies fame, has been replaced by a cartoon trans woman.

An image with a CNN header includes the headline, "Kellogg's spokesperson announces Rice Krispie mascot 'Pop' is now a trans woman." In the photo, Pop, with a new look, is sporting purple hair, a ponytail and eyelashes. A caption with the meme claims, "The woke mob strikes again."

But this image is fake, according to Reuters. This is not an authentic story from CNN and no story like this was published by the news organization.

A Kellogg's spokesperson told Reuters, "We have made no changes to the Rice Krispies mascots, Snap Crackle and Pop."

• 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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