Facts matter: Debunking the fake news that followed shooting at newspaper

  • Capital Gazette reporter E.B. Furgurson III looks at crosses and a Star of David representing his five colleagues at a makeshift memorial outside the office building housing The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.

    Capital Gazette reporter E.B. Furgurson III looks at crosses and a Star of David representing his five colleagues at a makeshift memorial outside the office building housing The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Associated Press

  • An American flag waves next to crosses and a Star of David representing five journalists killed at The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.

    An American flag waves next to crosses and a Star of David representing five journalists killed at The Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Associated Press

  • Someone digitally added a fake "sugar free" label to photo of a bag of Publix grocery story sugar, and it's been making social media rounds for at least five years, resurfacing again in recent weeks.

    Someone digitally added a fake "sugar free" label to photo of a bag of Publix grocery story sugar, and it's been making social media rounds for at least five years, resurfacing again in recent weeks.

 
 
Updated 7/7/2018 5:51 PM

False reports seem to follow tragedy, and the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, was no exception.

Five people were killed June 28 at the newspaper office after a gunman opened fire in the newsroom, according to The Associated Press. Surviving staff members went on to publish the next day's edition as fake news hit social media. Among the debunked reports:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Hours after the shootings police were denying the widely reported statement that the shooter had removed or altered his fingerprints before the attack, according to Poynter.org. Officials said they had no idea where the claim, attributed to "unnamed police sources," had come from.

• A fake headline, posted on Twitter and attributed to The New York Times, said the "mass shooter listened to Milo Yiannopolis's call to 'shoot journalists,'" Poynter said. The political activist, spelled Yiannopoulos, previously worked for Breitbart News. The New York Times confirmed the headline is not real.

• Accusations that the killings were part of a "false flag" event followed the massacre, Poynter reported. False flags imply that a group, often the government, is responsible for the attack as a cover for the real perpetrator. The term "false flag" goes back to when pirate ships would fly friendly flags to deceive intended victims.

False tweet leads to resignation

A reporter for The Republican, a newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts, resigned after claiming on Twitter that the killer had left a Donald Trump hat at the Capital Gazette office following the shootings, according to The Boston Globe.

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Reporter Conor Berry apologized the day after the shooting, writing his 21-year career "came to a screeching halt yesterday with one stupid, regrettable tweet."

Eastwood staying put

A "massive announcement" last month on social media said actor Clint Eastwood was leaving Hollywood, "the place of traitors and pedophilians."

This is not an actual quote from Eastwood but rather was fabricated by "disreputable" website NY Evening News, according to Snopes.com.

The social media post was taken from an article published in March by NY Evening News that said Eastwood made the announcement at the Cannes Film Festival. That article, which claims the actor is going to "leave this awful place" to fight against traitors, references a story by the Hollywood Reporter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A Hollywood Reporter story after an Eastwood appearance at Cannes doesn't mention him leaving Hollywood, Snopes reported.

The actor has been a regular in Hollywood and is working on a new movie, Snopes said.

Conway praises VP imitator's tweet

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway last week praised a Twitter post from a fake Mike Pence account, according to Newsweek.

Conway wrote, "@VP calls out sexism and shows what it means to be pro-woman," after a post from the imitation Mike Pence account slammed a CNN editor for being sexist, Newsweek said.

On Twitter, CNN's Chris Cillizza had posted a photo of Amy Coney Barrett and said, "If you believe Trump makes decisions based on image and appearance (and he does), then here's the next Supreme Court Justice."

That was retweeted by the fake @MikePenceVP, which listed Barrett's credentials and derided Cillizza.

Pence has two active Twitter accounts. There are many other accounts named for the vice president run by fans and those spoofing him, Newsweek reported.

Conway later deleted her Twitter post.

Is sugar-free sugar real?

A photo showing a bag of sugar labeled "sugar free" recently made the rounds on social media.

The image has been around since 2013 but found a new audience in April when it was posted by the "You Had One Job" Twitter account, according to Snopes.com.

The photo is of a real bag of Publix brand sugar, with the "sugar free" label digitally added to the image, Snopes said.

The "sugar free" label used can be found on stock photography websites, Snopes said.

• 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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