Facts Matter: Smoke near Pentagon photo shows incident that didn't happen

A photo posted on social media last week showing black smoke next to a bureaucratic-looking building caused a ripple in the stock market and was picked up by Russia's news media.

"Reports of an explosion near the Pentagon in Washington DC," was reported on Twitter by RT, a Russian government-backed news agency.

But the photo is fake, according to The Associated Press. There was neither a fire nor an explosion near the Pentagon.

RT took down the tweet, after verifying the news was false.

"As with fast-paced news verification, we made the public aware of reports circulating and once provenance and veracity were ascertained, we took appropriate steps to correct the reporting," RT told the AP.

Arlington County Fire Department officials took to Twitter to respond to the false claim.

"@PFPAOfficial and the ACFD are aware of a social media report circulating online about an explosion near the Pentagon. There is NO explosion or incident taking place at or near the Pentagon reservation, and there is no immediate danger or hazard to the public," the agency wrote.

As for the stock market, the S & P 500 briefly dropped when the photo made the rounds on social media; prices for gold and U.S. Treasury bonds increased, which occurs when investors are looking for a safe place to put their money.

The fake image of the plume of smoke was likely created using generative artificial intelligence programs, Hany Farid, professor at University of California, Berkeley, told the AP. But the photo contains some flaws.

"Specifically, the grass and concrete fade into each other, the fence is irregular, there is a strange black pole that is protruding out of the front of the sidewalk but is also part of the fence," he said.

Trump didn't write that

A screenshot of an incoherent, all-caps Truth Social post that appeared to be from former President Donald Trump, had people alarmed.

The tweet begins, "WAH WAH WAH SNIVELING SNOT WAH WHINE WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH WHINEY WAAHHH WHINING…," and pretty much goes on like that for another 28 words.

"OMG! At first I thought this might be parody but NO. It's actually a post from former president Donald Trump!," one user wrote. "Wow! This is the front runner of the Republican Party!," another commented.

But this rambling post didn't come from the former president, according to Reuters. It was fabricated to look like it came from Trump's official account.

There is no evidence of this post in archived versions of his profile or on his website. In an online search, Reuters said the screenshot appears to have been shared by the website iFunny.

Audio added to Biden video

A video posted on social media on May 17 shows President Joe Biden at the University of Pennsylvania's graduation ceremony while there seems to be a crowd of people heckling him.

Text with the video claim chants including an expletive aimed at the president were shouted.

But the video, which has been shared more than 5,000 times, is fake, according to USA Today. The original video has been altered to include the profane chant.

There were no reports of the crowd heckling the president, who was attending his granddaughter's graduation. He sat in the bleachers during the ceremony with his wife, Jill, and children Hunter and Ashley.

When video from the University of Pennsylvania and other sources are compared to the altered video, the same music can be heard in the background but there is no chant. Reporters at the graduation said they didn't hear heckling.

Press photographer Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, who was at the event, told Reuters she didn't experience any hostility against Biden.

"I did not hear any chants like that directed towards the president, nor did I hear any heckling," she said.

Border gate wasn't opened for migrants

A video posted on social media recently appears to show a U.S. soldier opening a gate at the border allowing migrants to illegally enter the U.S.

"American soldiers exposed on camera opening the gate for illegal immigrants entry to America, which is a violation of US code 1324 and 1327," reads the text with the video.

But that's not the case, according to The Associated Press. The migrants had previously crossed the border.

"U.S. Border Patrol continues to enforce U.S. immigration laws. The individuals had already crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico, were on U.S. soil, and are subject to U.S. immigration laws," a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told the AP.

Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell University in New York, told the AP the migrants in the clip were being taken for processing.

"The video doesn't show any effort to harbor or hide undocumented migrants. Claims that federal officials are simply letting migrants enter the U.S. illegally are unfounded," he 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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