A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular yet completely fake stories and images of the week. None of these are legit, even though they have been widely shared on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


The House GOP did not tell Raskin to remove the headgear

CLAIM: House Republicans are asking Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, to remove the hat he wore on the floor of the House during chemotherapy.

THE FACTS: Republicans have made no such request and have in fact been nothing but supportive, a spokesman for Raskin told the AP. Raskin, who announced he was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, attended the first House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday wearing a bandana. But as the new Republican House majority takes control, confusion over a joke Raskin made about House rules governing headgear has fueled a false rumor on social media. “Kevin McCarthy insisted Jamie Raskin take off his veil because chemotherapy caused his hair to fall out,” wrote one Twitter user in a tweet with 34,000 likes, referring to the Republican House speaker. “You’d think they’d have sympathy for a colleague with cancer, but they’re monsters.” But the Republicans did not enforce such a rule and the false claim arose from a misunderstanding. In a Tuesday tweet, Punchbowl News reporter Heather Caygle wrote that Raskin received a standing ovation at a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus after she said he would reject Republican efforts to have him remove his headgear. “And I’ll have them take off the toupees,” Caygle said of Raskin. Jacob Wilson, a spokesman for Raskin, told the AP in an email that Raskin “was lightly answering a hypothetical question from a colleague” during the caucus meeting. According to Caygle’s tweet, he was asked “what he would do if Republicans made him take off his headgear on the House floor.” Caygle clarified in a follow-up tweet that Raskin said no House Republican told him about the hat rules. Caygle declined further comment when she was reached via email. Wilson said the Democrat “has received nothing but support and encouragement from all of his peers and leaders on both sides of the aisle.” Mark Bednar, a spokesman for McCarthy, said the Speaker of the House had not told Raskin to remove his hat. Hats were banned in the lower house in 1837.

— Associated Press writer Graph Massara of San Francisco contributed additional articles to this report by Sophia Tulp of New York.


Experts: Pfizer tests COVID vaccines, treatment in line with industry standards

CLAIM: Pfizer acknowledged in a statement that it has conducted “gain-of-function” research as part of its development of a vaccine and separate medical treatment for COVID-19.

THE FACTS: Experts said nothing in a recent company statement that suggests it’s conducting research designed to make COVID-19 more harmful, some social media users say. A statement released on Jan. 27 by Pfizer in response to allegations it was conducting risky “gain-of-function” research sparked another round of false speculation against a major COVID vaccine maker. Gain-of-function refers to scientific experiments that give an organism a new property or improve an existing one. In the case of a virus like the coronavirus causing COVID-19, this could mean making it more harmful or giving it the ability to pass on to other species. But the company said no such thing in its statement, noting that its vaccine trials are undertaken only after a new variant has been identified by public health authorities. “This research provides us with a way to rapidly evaluate an existing vaccine’s ability to induce antibodies that neutralize a newly identified variant of concern,” the company said. “We then make this data available through peer-reviewed scientific journals and use it as one of the steps to determine if a vaccine update is needed.” For research related to its antiviral drug Paxlovid, Pfizer said “most” of the work is being done using computer simulations or mutations of a noninfectious part of the virus. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, said nothing in the statement that suggests Pfizer is conducting research designed to “weapon” COVID-19 or “increase its pathogenicity.” as some social media users claim. “They could undertake virological research to test the limits of their technologies knowing that through the evolution of the virus some of these changes can occur naturally,” he wrote in an email. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University, agrees, though he said Pfizer’s statement is “written in a technical way” that could have been “made clearer for non-scientific readers.” “To be useful, the researcher must deliberately make a change, knowing that the change makes the virus more dangerous, and the change must be something the virus could not reasonably do on its own,” Neuman wrote in an email. “To lose any part of that definition, and it’s not gain-of-function. It’s a really high level and the last part is the key. Albert Ko, who chairs the epidemiology department at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, said the online claims amounted to “scaremongering.” “Engineering the virus doesn’t always mean research gain on function,” he said. “Vaccines are made like this, by taking pieces of one virus and inserting them into another virus. It doesn’t necessarily mean a high risk of creating a stronger and more dangerous virus.” At the same time, he said, the company should disclose more information about the job, such as its internal approval process and safety protocols. A Pfizer spokesperson declined to respond to requests for further comment. “The statement represents our comment on the false allegations currently being made about vaccine research at Pfizer,” Amy Rose wrote in an email.

– Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo of New York contributed to this report.


The Georgia school module on the risks of sudden cardiac arrest is not new

CLAIM: A “Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Form” is now being released in Georgia high schools, suggesting a new phenomenon related to COVID-19 vaccines.

THE FACTS: That form has been given to families of Georgia students since 2019 in accordance with state law. Social media posts are spreading a picture of the education module provided to Georgia families focusing on sudden cardiac arrest, with some users incorrectly insinuating it is related to COVID-19 vaccines. “Parents must now sign a sudden cardiac arrest awareness form. But remember that the Jab is safe enough to give to children,” a tweet with the image read. The document shown in the social media posts is titled “Georgia High School Student/Parent Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Form Association.” But that form predates both the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines: A version of the same form available online is dated May 2019. Steve Figueroa, a spokesman for the Georgia High School Association, told the AP that the form is It has been used since the 2019-2020 school year in response to a state law focused on preventing sudden cardiac arrest.That law, passed in 2019, requires public and private schools to hold meetings about the symptoms and warning signs of cardiac arrest sudden cardiac arrest and also to provide an “information sheet” to parents and guardians.The form details the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest, malfunction sudden birth of the heart. For example, the document instructs parents to see a doctor if their child suddenly faints or experiences chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise. Incorrect claims and deceptive videos have spread the unsubstantiated theory that COVID-19 vaccines are behind a surge of young athletes suffering from such heart problems. Cardiologists told the AP there have been cases of athletes experiencing sudden cardiac death and cardiac arrest long before the COVID-19 pandemic and not seeing the alleged dramatic increase.

— Associated Press author Angelo Fichera of Philadephia contributed to this report.


The false claims about the NFL referee investigation began as a satire

CLAIM: The NFL is investigating AFC Championship referee Ronald Torbert because his son made a large bet on the Kansas City Chiefs before they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

THE FACTS: This claim originated on a spoof Twitter account and elements of the post make it clear that it is fictional. Some Bengals fans were unhappy with the calls made during the AFC championship game, which sent the Chiefs to the Super Bowl. But it’s not true that the NFL is investigating the referee who made the calls, despite a misleading post on social media. A Twitter post that made the claim came from a satirical account featuring a character in the comedy film ‘Anchorman’ – details leaked to some social media users who shared the post as real. “BREAKING: NFL Chief Arbiter of AFC Championship Game, Ronald Torbert, commenting on NFL investigation of family member who bet on game this morning,” the post read. He then quotes Torbert as saying, “I didn’t know my son made a big bet on the Chiefs until after the game.” The post claims Torbert made the comments on a radio station called “101.4 ‘The Juice’,” which doesn’t exist. An Internet search for the station brings up several juices sold in 101.4 fluid ounce quantities. The account that posted it identifies itself as a “sports parody/satire host at KVWN sports news,” referring to a fictitious news station in the film. However, social media users spread the bogus quote without that context on Facebook and Twitter, attributing it to an explanation for why umpires made several calls Sunday night in Kansas City’s favor. In some cases, the post was shared as a screenshot, lacking the satirical disclaimer on the Twitter account. There is no evidence that such an investigation is underway. Reached for comment, an NFL spokesman pointed to the fact that the account spreading the claim identified itself as satire.


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