Facts Matter: Social media post exaggerates cost of special counsel investigation

Reports on social media claim special counsel Robert Mueller has spent more than $50 million in taxpayer funds looking into Russian interference during the 2016 election.

The amount is actually about half that, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. Justice Department report released in December said the investigation cost slightly more than $25 million as of September 2018, AP said.

Mueller is receiving an estimated annual salary of $161,900, according to

The investigation, which has led to charges against 34 people has so far cost less than other high-profile investigations. The Iran-Contra probe in the 1980s cost $47 million and the Kenneth Starr investigation of President Bill Clinton in the '90s topped out at $79 million, according to Marketplace.

False reports about the cost of the special counsel's investigation have circulated on social media in the past but resurfaced after President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee in February, AP said.

In November, Trump said on Twitter the cost of the investigation was $40 million and followed that up with another post a few days later that said the total was $30 million.

Clinton bodyguard rumor false

A recent Facebook post claims Chelsea Clinton's bodyguard Jack Gordon was found dead in the Ohio River after he shared damaging information he learned on the job.

The claim is false, according to, and there is no evidence anyone named Jack Gordon worked as a bodyguard for any of the Clintons.

In fact, the man in the photo is actor Ted Levine, who can be seen in the "Monk" TV series and the movie "The Silence of the Lambs," PolitiFact said.

The Facebook meme includes a photo of Levine and claims, "This is Jack Gordon. He was Chelsea Clinton's bodyguard until August 2018. Soon after his termination he started talking to federal prosecutors about damaging information he had obtained. In January of 2019 his body was found floating in the Ohio river near WV. His phone and computer had been smashed."

A version of the fake story appeared last month in a blog post on America's Last Line of Defense, a website known for publishing misleading and satirical content, PolitiFact said. The story said Hillary Clinton aide and Chelsea Clinton bodyguard Jaeger Holpern was the man found dead. Jaeger Holpern is an anagram for the blog's author Jolee Garphren.

The false post, shared nearly 400 times, has been flagged by Facebook's effort against false news and misinformation.

President correctly salutes flag

A fake meme has recently shown up on social media in which Trump appears to incorrectly place his left hand over the right side of his chest while reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance."

The image, which includes the comment, "This is the leader the free world … it still hasn't sunk in," is actually a flipped version of a real photo, according to The Associated Press.

The original picture, with the president standing next to his wife Melania, was taken in 2014 at the Trump Invitational Grand Prix at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, AP said. In that photo, credited to Bruce R. Bennett of the Palm Beach Post, Trump is correctly holding his right hand over his heart.

A different Steve Harvey

A Facebook message went viral after Steve Harvey said Trump is flawed but effective and was hired to get rid of the Democratic and Republican parties.

The message is authentic, according to, but it was posted by a user named Steve Harvey from Tennessee, not Steve Harvey the talk show and game show host.

Harvey of Tennessee compared Trump to an exterminator and said it doesn't matter what kind of person the exterminator is as long as he does the job. He goes on to say Trump's personality doesn't matter as long as he gets rid of the Democratic Party, Republican Party and undocumented immigrants.

The message was shared or reposted, often crediting the author, Snopes said. Readers inquired if it was written by the famous Steve Harvey and at least one blog post claimed it was.

Steve Harvey, the public figure, has said he is not "a Trump supporter," according to Snopes, and he has expressed strong support for Democratic candidates.

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

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The photo in this Facebook post is actor Ted Levine, there is no evidence anyone named Jack Gordon worked as a bodyguard for any of the Clintons, and the claim is false, PolitiFact said.
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