Facts Matter: Pelosi didn't break a law by ripping up copy of Trump's speech

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tears her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., last week. Vice President Mike Pence is at left.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tears her copy of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., last week. Vice President Mike Pence is at left. Associated Press

Updated 2/8/2020 6:32 PM

As President Donald Trump completed his State of the Union address Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was seated behind the president, ripped up a copy of the speech.

Afterward, Charlie Kirk, a Wheeling High School graduate and founder of the conservative organization Turning Point USA, took to Twitter to claim Pelosi, by ripping up the speech, had violated a statute that is "punishable by up to three years in prison."


But Pelosi didn't violate any laws, because she destroyed a copy of the speech and not an official document, according to PolitiFact.com.

"Her copy of the State of the Union address is not a government record or government property at all. It is personal property," City University of New York School of Law professor Douglas Cox told PolitiFact.

The statute Kirk cited concerns the concealment, removal or mutilation of government records that are "filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States," PolitiFact said.

As for speech copies handed out to members of Congress, "They can keep them private, they can destroy them, or they can rip them up," Cox said.

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Chlorine no cure for coronavirus

The Food and Drug Administration is warning against ingesting chlorine dioxide to ward off this recent strain of coronavirus from China, according to The Associated Press.

The suggestion to drink chlorine dioxide or similar products with names such as Miracle Mineral Solution to eliminate the virus has been making the rounds on social media, the AP said.

"We understand people are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus, and we urge people to talk to their health care provider about treatment options, as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness," the FDA told the AP.

The FDA has been warning against drinking chlorine dioxide, a bleaching agent used for water treatment, since 2010, the AP said. Previously, a false claim on social media said the chemical is a miracle cure for autism.


Iowa caucus delay fuels conspiracy theories

Results from the Iowa caucuses last week were delayed more than a day due to problems with an app used during the first 2020 primary election.

The delay gave social media users a chance to present a variety of false conspiracy theories about the app, according to The Associated Press.

Three executives at Shadow Inc., the organization that created the mobile app for the Democratic Party to report election results, previously worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, the AP said. That fueled false claims that Clinton and her former campaign manager Robby Mook had a part in developing the app.

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who eventually emerged as the leader out of the Iowa caucuses, was also the subject of false claims, the AP said. Although his campaign had paid Shadow Inc. for text messaging software, claims that Buttigieg's campaign had developed the app or orchestrated a scam to delay the results are false.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is known as Mayor Pete. On Tuesday, the hashtag #MayorCheat was trending on Twitter and had been used more than 120,000 times, the AP said.

No dolphins in Lake Michigan

An article published last year claimed the population of dolphins living in Lake Michigan is increasing.

"The Freshwater Bottlenose Dolphin is making a comeback in the Great Lakes," according to a story on the Snickersee website. "The species was listed as endangered in the 1960s as a result of over fishing. Sightings of the rare dolphins are on the rise, and scientists say that the population is nearing 2,000 dolphins."

But the article is a joke, and Snickersee is a satirical website that publishes "entertaining" stories, according to Snopes.com. The article included a fake photo showing two dolphins jumping out of the water near Navy Pier. The photo had been altered to include the dolphins, Snopes said.

Satire about whales in the Great Lakes began in 1985 when the first Great Lakes Whale Watch was organized, Snopes said. The intention was not to spot whales but rather to increase awareness about the plight of sea mammals.

The Minnesota Sea Grant, a program at the University of Minnesota, when asked about whales in Lake Superior, said, "There are no whales, no dolphins or sharks, and no squid in the Great Lakes."

• 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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