Facts Matter: Obama didn't skip cemetery service to attend Memorial Day barbecue in Chicago

President Barack Obama left office 2½ years ago, but some social media users continue to circulate a false rumor about how he celebrated Memorial Day in 2010.

The Facebook claim that Obama skipped Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery so he could attend a barbecue in Chicago is false, according to The Associated Press.

Obama was in Illinois for part of Memorial Day 2010, according to AP coverage of that day. He placed a wreath at a tomb at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, south of Joliet, in the early afternoon on Memorial Day. Because of a storm, his speech at the military graveyard was canceled.

Obama then visited with veterans and service members at a Veterans Affairs treatment center in Hines and, after returning to the capital later that day, addressed troops at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Obama did attend a friend's barbecue in Chicago on the previous Saturday, AP said.

NASA didn't develop space pen

A social media post claims NASA spent $165 million trying to develop a space pen, while Russian cosmonauts used a pencil.

But space travelers from both countries used pencils on early missions and later used the same type of pen, according to

The long-running post, which was flagged by Facebook, states, "(When) NASA started sending astronauts into space they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat this problem Congress approved a program and NASA scientists spent a decade and over $165 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, on almost any surface and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 Celsius. The Russians used a pencil ... Your taxes are due again in April."

According to PolitiFact, as part of the mid-1960s Project Gemini, NASA purchased 34 mechanical pencils from Houston's Tycam Engineering Manufacturing Inc. for $4,382, or roughly $129 per pencil. Public outcry forced NASA to find a cheaper option.

During that decade, the Fisher Pen Co., without funding from the U.S. government, designed and patented the Space Pen, a ballpoint pen with a pressurized ink cartridge that could write upside down, under water and in extreme temperatures.

After a series of tests, in 1967, NASA purchased nearly 400 Fisher Space Pens at $6 apiece, PolitiFact said. In 1969, the Soviet Union bought 100 Fisher pens along with 1,000 ink cartridges. Eventually, both space agencies bought the pens for $2.39 each, while receiving the same discount for buying in bulk.

In the years since, both countries have continued to use Fisher's Space Pens, PolitiFact said.

Poverty statistics not accurate

A meme appearing on social media this month quotes 2016 presidential candidate and U.S. senator Bernie Sanders saying, "When you're white, you don't know what it's like to be poor," and includes the line "Fact: 70% of Americans in poverty are white."

The quote is accurate but the statistic is wrong, according to

The Vermont senator made the statement during a primary debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016. When the candidates were asked about racial blind spots they might have, Sanders said, "When you're white, you don't know what it's like to be living in a ghetto. You don't know what it's like to be poor. You don't know what it's like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car."

Sanders was criticized afterward for overlooking the number of white families living in poverty, according to

Citing the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics, said the number of white families living below the federally recognized poverty line is about 42%, much less than the 70% claim included in the meme.

Drew Carey didn't wear MAGA hat on Fox News

A supporter of President Donald Trump who appeared on Fox News wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat was mistaken for actor and "The Price is Right" host Drew Carey, according to

Blake Marnell gained minor fame this month when Trump noticed him at a Pennsylvania rally and brought Marnell on stage, Snopes said. The Trump fan was decked out in a suit featuring a brick wall pattern, in addition to the red MAGA hat

Marnell wore the same brick-print suit and red hat when he was invited to appear on "Fox & Friends" on May 22, and his resemblance to Carey might have fueled the false claims, Snopes said.

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

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