Facts Matter: Misinformation follows helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant

  • National Transportation Safety Board investigators examine the wreckage of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in California that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. The crash inspired a number of fake news reports.

    National Transportation Safety Board investigators examine the wreckage of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in California that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others. The crash inspired a number of fake news reports. Courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board/Associated Press

Updated 2/1/2020 5:39 PM

Basketball great Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, was killed in a helicopter crash last week in southern California.

Fake news tends to follow tragedy, and this was no exception.


Within hours of the crash, a video began circulating on social media with the claim that it was footage of the helicopter going down. It wasn't.

The video is actually of a December 2018 fatal helicopter crash in the United Arab Emirates, according to AFP, the international news agency centered in France. The recently posted clip, showing the chopper spinning out of control and ending in a fiery crash, has been shared more than three million times.

Another false Facebook post is a screenshot made to look like a tweet from Bryant, sent at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 26 and stating, "I have information that will lead to the arrest of Hillary Clinton." The crash occurred just before 10 a.m. that day.

This tweet is not from Bryant, according to PolitiFact.com. He didn't tweet anything on Jan. 26. The only post on Bryant's Twitter account about the Clintons was a photo he posted of himself and former President Bill Clinton in 2013, PolitiFact said.

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The misinformation also included others who died, or weren't involved, in the crash.

A video that purportedly showed Gianna Bryant in the hospital after the crash was uploaded to YouTube the next day, PolitiFact said.

But the clip, of a motionless body in a hospital bed, is actually of Ariana Cerantes, a 28-year-old woman killed in a traffic collision in August. The original clip, titled "Ariana's Honor Walk," shows Cerantes slowly being wheeled down a hallway lined with doctors and nurses, a ritual to honor organ donors.

And the Facebook post that claimed Bryant's former Lakers teammate Rick Fox also died in the crash is false, PolitiFact said. Fox's stepdaughter, Jillian Hervey, later tweeted that her stepdad is "alive and safe."

That's not Lev Parnas

Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who is charged with making illegal campaign contributions, has been the subject of recent photos circulating on social media, often posed with Donald Trump. The president has said he doesn't know Parnas, according to The Associated Press.


And a man in the background of a 1990 photo from Eric Trump's 6th birthday party at the Plaza Hotel in New York is not Parnas, the AP said. Twitter posts claim the man is Parnas, and therefore, Trump must know him.

Parnas has said he didn't know Trump until 2016, and he would have been 18 years old at the time of Eric's party in 1990.

The man in the photo is much older than that, but looks a little like Parnas looks now.

The photo was published by ABC News in 2017 in a story about the release of the book, "Raising Trump," by the president's first wife Ivana Trump, according to Snopes.com.

Real MLK photo, but fake cause of death

A recently shared photo of Martin Luther King Jr., alive and in a hospital bed, is real. But the accompanying claim that it was taken after he was shot in 1968, and died in the hospital after he was suffocated with a pillow, is false, according to The Associated Press.

The picture was taken by the AP in 1958 when King was recovering from surgery after doctors removed a letter opener from his chest. He had been stabbed by a woman during a book signing in New York.

King was shot and killed 10 years later while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

The miscaptioned photo was shared thousands of times on social media just ahead of the Jan. 20 holiday honoring the civil rights leader, the AP said.

Roker not leaving Today

A magazine article about Al Roker caused many to question whether the weather man and co-host was leaving the "Today" show, according to Snopes.com.

A story published by Good Housekeeping magazine, headlined "Today's fans go wild over Al Roker's next big career move," led many to believe the longtime host was moving on from the morning show, Snopes said.

But, according to the article, Roker's next move is authoring a book, titled "You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success."

Snopes said it could find no information to back up the claim that Roker is leaving the "Today" show.

• 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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