NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

FILE - Former President George W. Bush speaks at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. On Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming a photo shows Bush meeting with Osama Bin Laden. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Aroundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out.

CLAIM: A judge on Monday delayed proceedings in former President Donald Trump’s New York defamation trial until Tuesday, the day of the New Hampshire primary, which is proof of election interference.


THE FACTS: The trial was delayed on Monday because of a juror’s illness.

The false claim circulated ahead of Trump’s possible testimony in his defamation trial over comments he made about E. Jean Carroll, the writer who claims he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. Social media users are misrepresenting the postponement as a nefarious attempt to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.

“BREAKING: The judge in Trump’s E. Jean Carroll defamation trial just delayed todays trial until tomorrow — the day of the NH primary,” reads one post on X, formerly Twitter. “ELECTION INTERFERENCE!” The post had received more than 5,500 likes and shares as of Friday.

But the decision to delay the proceedings was unrelated to the election. A juror’s illness forced the last-minute change.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said one of nine jurors was told to go home and take a COVID-19 test after he reported feeling hot and nauseous. Trump attorney Alina Habba also reported that at least one of her parents had COVID-19 and that she ran a fever in the days before Monday’s proceedings last two days after having dinner with them several days prior.

Habba said that her law partner, Michael Madaio, also attended the dinner, although both tested negative for the virus on Monday. She then said she didn’t see a problem “with a short delay for a day” so everyone can get tested, but requested the trial not be held Tuesday because of the New Hampshire primary.

A court filing late Monday stipulated that the trial had ended early that day and would continue on Wednesday. It reiterated: “Trial will not be held on Tuesday, 1/23/2024.”

The filing did not, however, say whether the timing was to allow the Republican frontrunner to campaign in New Hampshire or if illness was to blame. Asked for specifics by The Associated Press, the Southern District Court of New York declined further comment.

A different jury awarded Carroll $5 million last year after deciding that Trump sexually abused her in 1996 and made defamatory comments about her in 2022. Trump is appealing that verdict. Carroll’s defamation claims were divided between two lawsuits. Hence this second trial, where she’s seeking more than $10 million in damages.

Trump is facing four criminal cases and a civil fraud case in addition to Carroll’s lawsuit as the presidential primary season swings into full gear.

CLAIM: A photo shows President George W. Bush meeting with Osama bin Laden.

THE FACTS: The image was edited to add the al-Qaida founder. The original photo, which was taken at a Pentagon meeting the day after 9/11, shows Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz sitting where bin Laden appears in the altered version. Wolfowitz can also be seen in another image taken at the meeting from a different angle.

In the edited image, bin Laden appears between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of the Army Thomas White. Bush sits at the head of the table beside National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

“PLANNING THE #911falseflag – NOTHING TO SEE HERE,” reads one Facebook post that shared the picture.

But the image has been altered. Bin Laden does not appear in the original, which was taken on Sept. 12, 2001, by a photographer for Washington-based Mai Photo Agency and distributed by Getty Images. In reality, it is Wolfowitz sitting between Rumsfeld and White.

A caption for the photo as it appears on Getty Images reads: “At table Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (4L) introducing staff members to President George W. Bush (5L) at their Pentagon meeting re 9/11 terrorist attack.” The abbreviations “4L” and “5L” refer to Rumsfeld and Bush’s locations in the photo.

Additionally, the edited photo is cropped so that other government officials who appear in the original from 2001, such as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, are not visible.

Another image from the meeting can be seen on the Department of Defense’s website. Taken from the other side of the table, it too shows Wolfowitz sitting between Rumsfeld and White.

Bin Laden, who orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was killed during a U.S. commando operation in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

CLAIM: World Economic Forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab admitted that his plan for a “Great Reset” is being destroyed by a “political revolution” against the idea.

THE FACTS: An article by a website known to publish misinformation misrepresented a speech Schwab gave on the future of governments worldwide at a 2017 conference in Dubai, three years before the WEF introduced the idea of The Great Reset. In reality, Schwab spoke about the need to develop new systems of government to reflect contemporary perspectives and what such systems could entail.

Social media users shared a screenshot of a baseless article titled: “Klaus Schwab Admits ‘Political Revolution’ Against The ‘Great Reset’ Is Destroying His Agenda” to spread the false information. One Instagram post that shared the screenshot reads: “We are the revolution!” It had received more than 2,700 likes as of Friday.

The article comes from a website called The People’s Voice, which was previously known as NewsPunch. The site has published numerous stories based on fabricatedinformation, often about Schwab and the WEF.

The article provides no evidence to support its claim.

Yann Zopf, a WEF spokesperson, called it “a complete misrepresentation of the speech by Professor Schwab from 2017.”

“His words are taken out of context and misinterpreted to fuel absolute baseless conspiracy theories in order to discredit the important work that the World Economic Forum does on serious global challenges,” Zopf wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Zopf also pointed out that the WEF’s 2024 Global Risks Report “found misinformation and disinformation to be the top risk for the world in the next two years” and that “unfortunately, more and more organizations are seeing a rise in fake news.”

The Great Reset is a broad proposal set out by the WEF in 2020 to reimagine social and economic systems. It has stoked a number of baseless conspiracy theories online.

As supposed proof of Schwab’s alleged admission, the People’s Voice article includes a clip from Schwab’s address at the 2017 World Governments Summit in which he says: “You have this anti-system movement — what we are seeing is a revolution against the system. So fixing the present system is not enough.”

Schwab then describes libertarianism as an “anti-system” that involves dismantling “everything which creates some kind of influence of government into private lives.”

At no point in his speech does Schwab admit that a “political revolution” is destroying The Great Reset initiative, which would not even be launched for another three years.

He speaks instead about how some governments have faced a backlash from people who feel globalization is not working to their advantage while others have chosen to re-erect walls, leading to “a world which is more anchored in yesterday and a world which probably is characterized by fragility and hostility.”

As an alternative, Schwab suggests that governments should instead develop new systems that are “in line with the new world which is unfolding.” For example, prioritizing both individual well-being and societal advancement. The People’s Voice did not respond to a request for comment.

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