Facts Matter: Google didn't manipulate 2016 election

By Bob Oswald

"Wow, Report Just Out!" President Donald Trump tweeted last week. "Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election!"

The claim is unsubstantiated, according to, and the president's information is from a controversial paper published online in 2017.

Trump's tweet went on to say, "Google should be sued. My victory was even bigger than thought!"

The paper, recently cited in an article on the conservative website Town Hall, was written by psychologist Robert Epstein on how bias in search engines can affect voting preferences, PolitiFact said.

Epstein told PolitiFact he disagreed with Trump's characterization of his findings.

"I have never said that Google deliberately manipulated the 2016 election," he said.

The findings were a result of researchers recording the daily web searches of 95 people and then a crowdsourcing website voting on whether they found the search results biased.

A conclusion of the study said from 2.6 million to 10.4 million votes could have been manipulated and that "election-related search terms were, on average, biased in Mrs. Clinton's favor," PolitiFact said.

Experts who spoke to PolitiFact found problems with the methodology of the study and a lack of information about the research and questioned whether the behaviors in the test case would be the same when people actually voted.

A Google spokesman told PolitiFact, "This researcher's inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in 2017. As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to manipulate political sentiment."

Jeffrey Epstein

More rumors follow Jeffrey Epstein's death

The apparent suicide of financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was in prison awaiting trial for sex trafficking, has spawned conspiracy theories and false information across the internet.

A recent fake story appearing online claimed the pathologist who investigated the assassinations of President John Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also performed Epstein's autopsy, <URL destination="">according to The Associated Press.

</URL>Epstein's lawyers asked pathologist Micheal Baden, 85, to attend the autopsy but he did not perform it, the AP said.

Epstein's autopsy was done by New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson on Aug. 11, the day after Epstein died.

Rumors recently circulating on Facebook and Twitter claim Baden was picked to perform the autopsy as part of a cover up to protect important people associated with Epstein, including Trump and former President Bill Clinton, the AP said.

Baden, who served as New York's chief medical examiner in the late 1970s, has testified in many high-profile cases, including for the defense in O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial, the AP said.

Kamala Harris

Job losses misstated

While attacking Trump's trade policy during a CNN interview earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris said as many as 300,000 autoworkers could lose their jobs this year as a result of tariffs placed on China.

"(President Trump) said he was going to help working people, and it is estimated that as many as 300,000 autoworkers may be out of a job before the end of the year," Harris said.

But Harris' statement is incorrect and delays in imposing any tariffs would mean job losses wouldn't be seen until at least 2020, <URL destination=" ">according to

</URL>The numbers come from a February study by the Center For Automotive Research, which predicted a "worst case scenario" impact of a 25% tariff imposed on all imported cars and auto parts except on Canada, Mexico and South Korea, PolitiFact said. It was estimated between 70,000 and 367,000 jobs would be lost across all sectors of the U.S. economy, not just autoworkers.

CAR Vice President Kristin Dziczek told that "300,000 autoworkers out of a job before the end of the year is not what CAR is projecting."

She said the figure was an estimate of job losses "across the economy" one year after trade policies went into effect.

The CAR report didn't specify how many job losses would come from just the auto industry, PolitiFact said.

Shooting not staged

Six police officers were injured in an Aug. 4 shooting in Philadelphia while trying to execute a drug warrant<URL destination="">.

</URL>As an officer helped a fellow policeman, who had been shot, into a patrol car, a reporter on the scene for WPVI-TV said, "You can see blood coming from his arm and his leg," according to the AP.

But a 15-second clip taken from that report of the incident, without audio, claimed the footage shows officers spraying fake blood on themselves and that the shooting was staged, the AP said. The video with the false claim received more than 10,000 views on both Facebook and YouTube and several Twitter accounts shared the video.

"This is outrageous," the Philadelphia Police Department told the AP when asked about the falsely captioned video.

The department said the officer in the video was bleeding from a gunshot wound and the substance on the ground was blood.

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

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