Facts Matter: Pence didn't change Twitter photo to honor Biden, Harris

  • Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing Thursday about the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington.

    Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing Thursday about the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Washington. Associated Press

Updated 1/18/2021 9:10 AM

Vice President Mike Pence drew President Donald Trump's fury for convening a joint session of Congress where Democrat Joe Biden formally was named the next president. Trump had implored Pence to somehow overturn the Electoral College votes, even though the vice president doesn't have that power.

In spite of the rift, it doesn't seem plausible Pence would unfollow Trump and change his banner photo on Twitter to honor the incoming administration of Biden and Kamala Harris.


But some social media users made that leap.

"Things get even more bananas as VP Mike Pence unfollows Trump and changes his Twitter banner photo to Biden and Harris," wrote a Facebook user who included a screenshot of the account that purportedly shows the president-elect and vice president-elect.

But it isn't Biden and Harris in the photo, according to PolitiFact.com. It's Pence and his wife Karen.

The photo, taken from behind a stage, shows a white-haired man and a woman with brown hair waving to a crowd. It's Pence holding hands with his wife, who is wearing a hat. The vice president made it his Twitter photo on Nov. 3, after attending a Trump rally in Michigan the day before. Some members of the crowd can be seen wearing red caps.

Although Trump has since been banned from Twitter, Pence had continued to follow the president on the platform after the Capitol riot, PolitiFact said.

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NPR didn't predict insurrection

The riot at the U.S. Capitol was immediately followed by online activity pointing the blame in various directions. Some social media posts included a screenshot of a headline from NPR they claimed predicted the insurrection.

"Trump Supporters Storm U.S. Capitol, Clash With Police," topped the NPR story that was timestamped at 9:33 a.m. on Jan. 6, hours before the assault on the Capitol began.

Internet users falsely pointed to the headline as proof the rampage was planned and carried out by left-wing activists, according to The Associated Press.

"Seriously, how'd they know? STAGED," read a Twitter post the next day.

NPR didn't know what was going to happen. The story included in the screenshot was first posted at 9:33 a.m. on Jan. 6 under a headline about Congress counting the Electoral College votes. The article was updated with breaking news throughout the day.


The version of the story in the screenshot was updated at 3:08 p.m., after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

"I can confirm that NPR is neither clairvoyant nor were we a part of a conspiracy of people who staged the events yesterday," NPR media relations spokesman Ben Fishel told the AP.

Conservatives not shut down

Big tech companies, following the violence at the Capitol, took a new look at messages spreading fake information and cracked down on accounts that pushed false extremist ideas.

Twitter suspended 70,000 accounts and banned Trump indefinitely while Facebook clamped down on accounts pushing false messages about election fraud. Parler, a platform used by conservatives, was removed from Amazon Web Services and its app was dropped from the Google and Apple stores.

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California went on Fox News and claimed his political party was left with no means to communicate.

"Poof -- it's gone," he said. "Republicans have no way to communicate. And it doesn't even matter if you're a Republican or conservative."

Nunes' claim is an exaggeration, according to PolitiFact.com. He has merely lost "one tool in his toolbox to communicate with constituents."

"There is a full-time media press corps in the Capitol all day, every day -- members of Congress have almost open access if they want to get something out," former Republican staffer Brendan Buck told PolitiFact.

House members also can post any message they wish on their personal and official websites. They can issue news releases, send out mass emails or paper mail to constituents and hold remote meetings or town halls.

"There is no shortage of places for a member of Congress to communicate through traditional media, and still more through direct channels to constituents," Buck said.

Chuck Norris didn't riot

New photos emerge each day depicting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

One photo making the rounds on social media supposedly shows actor and martial artist Chuck Norris taking part in the rioting. The man in the photo, who resembles Norris, appears in a selfie with another man wearing a hat that reads "Trump 2020."

Norris, 80, didn't pose for that photo, nor was he at the Capitol, according to USA Today.

"This is not Chuck Norris and is a wannabe look alike although Chuck is much more handsome," the actor's manager Erik Kritzer told USA Today. "Chuck remains on his ranch in Texas where he has been with his family."

Norris has supported President Donald Trump in the past, USA Today 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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