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

A roundup 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. Here are the facts:


Posts misrepresent Biden 2020 campaign committee filing

CLAIM: President Joe Biden has officially filed for reelection with the Federal Election Commission.

THE FACTS: Biden has not formally filed for reelection, social media users are misrepresenting an updated administrative document that was recently filed with the FEC by his principal 2020 presidential campaign committee. “BREAKING REPORT: (NOT PARODY) Joe Biden Has Officially Filed to RUN FOR RE-ELECTION in 2024,” one Twitter user wrote on Tuesday. The tweet was shared over 1,900 times. “Joe Robinette Biden has just officially filed for Reelection with the Federal Election Committee today - running again with Kamala Harris as his Vice President,” an Instagram user wrote, also on Tuesday. But Biden has not officially declared his candidacy for reelection, according to FEC filings. Biden’s principal campaign committee for the 2020 general election, titled Biden for President, filed a statement of organization form on Tuesday. But this form is different from a statement of candidacy form, which would indicate a candidate is officially running. “These claims that he’s declared for 2024 are flatly untrue based on these filings,” said Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The new filing amended the committee’s statement of organization to “reflect new treasurer information,” said Judith Ingram, a spokesperson for the FEC. Presidential candidates file statements of candidacy for election cycles that they are participating in, and Biden has not filed such a form for the 2024 election cycle, she said. A Democratic National Committee official confirmed that the campaign committee’s filing is “not a re-election filing.” “This is just updating the form to change the treasurer name because the former treasurer is taking a government job,” the official said in an email. A candidate filing by the Biden campaign on the FEC website would be the "clearest indicator that Biden has ‘officially’ launched a reelection campaign,” Barry Burden, founding director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Elections Research Center, wrote in an email to the AP. But this hasn't happened yet. Candidates can also become official candidates in the eyes of the FEC if they raise or spend more than $5,000, according to the agency. The 2020 Biden campaign committee is still active to process minor financial transactions, which is similar to what other presidential campaigns have done, according to Burden.

— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.


UK didn’t change guidance on COVID vaccines and pregnancies

CLAIM: The U.K. government recently changed its COVID-19 vaccine guidance to advise against Pfizer’s shot for pregnant and breastfeeding people.

THE FACTS: The guidance has not changed. Social media users are misrepresenting a section of a summary report about Pfizer’s shot that was published by the U.K.’s medical regulatory agency in 2020. Posts circulating widely in recent days spread the false assertion that Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot isn’t safe for pregnancies and wrongly claimed that the U.K. government has conceded as much. “The UK now admits it’s not safe for pregnant women to get the vaccine,” reads a tweet that garnered more than 1,300 likes. But the U.K. government is in support of, not against, vaccinating pregnant people, health officials confirmed. The social media posts pointed to a screenshot of a “Toxicity conclusions” section from an online report titled, “Summary of the Public Assessment Report for COVID-19 Vaccine Pfizer/BioNTech.” That report was published by the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in 2020 as part of the vaccine's initial authorization process and was last updated on Aug. 16. The “Toxicity conclusions” section suggested that those who were pregnant or breastfeeding not be vaccinated, but also said that the recommendations “reflect the absence of data at the present time and do not reflect a specific finding of concern.” However, that specific section was reflective of what was known nearly two years ago when the vaccine was first rolling out — and before additional data became available. “The text referred to in social media posts comes from the Public Assessment Report (PAR) which reflects our assessment at the time of approval for the vaccine (2 December 2020),” the MHRA said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Since then new data has come to light (both non-clinical and post-authorisation ‘real world’ data) which supports the updated advice on vaccinating those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.” An archived version of the same page from December 2020 also confirms that the “Toxicity conclusions” section has remained the same. The MHRA specifically notes elsewhere online that the COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer’s, are safe for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding. Dr. Victoria Male, a lecturer in reproductive immunology at Imperial College London, told the AP that the confusion appeared to stem from the Aug. 16 update to the Pfizer documents. But that change dealt with information on booster shots, she said, as a note on a connected page indicates. Male also said that the U.K. government’s advice on COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancies hasn’t changed. “Since April 2021, the UK government has offered the COVID vaccine during pregnancy,” Male said in an email. “Since December 2021, pregnancy has been considered a priority condition for vaccination, because we know that COVID infection in pregnancy can cause stillbirth and preterm birth, and that vaccination protects against these and is safe in pregnancy.” An independent advisory group, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, recommended in July that pregnant people who have been previously vaccinated be offered an autumn booster.

— Associated Press writers Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia and Sophia Tulp in New York contributed this report. ___

Video shows water tanker for bank, not Mississippi governor’s mansion

CLAIM: A video shows a tanker truck outside the governor’s mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, supplying the residence with water amid the city’s water crisis.

THE FACTS: The tanker, which is parked across the street from the governor’s mansion, is there as a standby solution for the headquarters of a bank at that location. In the six-second video, the tanker can be seen parked on North West Street in downtown Jackson before the camera pans across the street to the governor’s mansion. The widely-shared clip has sparked outrage among social media users as the city works to restore water pressure, while many residents remain reliant on water distribution centers. “There is currently no running water in Jackson, Mississippi,” one Twitter user wrote. “The heat index is over 100 degrees. Schools are closed. People can’t cook, clean, drink, or bathe. But at least @tatereeves has a giant water truck providing him with clean water at the governor’s mansion.” The tweet garnered nearly 8,000 shares and nearly 18,000 likes. But the water tanker is for the headquarters of Trustmark Bank, located across the street from the governor’s mansion, according to Danny Shows, president and CEO of 4D Solutions, the emergency preparedness company that provided the vehicle. He told the AP that “by no means" was the tanker delivering water to the governor’s mansion. Shows explained that the water tanker is a back-up solution for the building, in case Jackson’s downtown area completely loses water pressure. Melanie Morgan, director of corporate communications and marketing for Trustmark, confirmed that the bank brought in the water tanker for its building “out of abundance of caution.” She told the AP that the tanker does not contain potable drinking water and is intended for building services such as air conditioning and restroom facilities. “We’ve engaged a contractor to bring in the tanker for us in order to keep our building operational,” Morgan said, adding that the bank wants to be able to relieve pressure on the city’s water system if necessary. She confirmed that the water tanker remains at the bank’s headquarters next to the governor’s mansion, but said that because the building still has “more than adequate water pressure,” the tanker has not yet been used. Shelby Wilcher, Tates’ press secretary, wrote in an email to the AP that the water tanker “is not supporting the Governor’s Mansion or any other state assets.” She added that the residence gets its water from the Jackson water system and that many businesses have brought in their own tankers. Jackson’s water system partially failed early this week due to flooding that exacerbated long-standing problems in one of the city’s two water-treatment plants, the AP reported. Reeves declared a state of emergency in Jackson on Tuesday, while President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency in Mississippi as a whole the same day.

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report. ___

New York law doesn’t ban minors from buying whipped cream

CLAIM: A New York law that aims to crack down on nitrous oxide abuse makes it illegal for anyone under age 21 to purchase a can of whipped cream.

THE FACTS: The law doesn't apply to store-bought, disposable whipped cream cans, meaning customers of any age can still legally purchase canned whipped cream in New York stores without having to show identification. Social media users, news outlets and operators of grocery and convenience stores have in recent days misinterpreted a year-old New York law aimed at cracking down on recreational use of the gas nitrous oxide. Commonly called laughing gas, nitrous oxide is used as a sedative in some medical situations and can also be used as a whipping agent for culinary purposes. However, the gas is also often inhaled from metal cartridges — so-called “whippits” — to induce a euphoric effect, despite serious health risks. The New York law, which went into effect in November, attempted to make it harder for minors to access such cartridges by prohibiting New York businesses from selling the small, gas-containing metal capsules to anyone under 21. But language in the bill describing the cartridges as “whipped cream chargers” led to widespread confusion. “New York recently passed a state law that prohibits anyone under age 21 to purchase a can of whipped cream,” wrote one popular Twitter account. The post linked to a news article making the same claim, and was shared nearly 5,000 times. The claim was further spread through headlines and stories in dozens of news outlets as some grocery store operators recently began enforcing what they believed was language that required them to ask for identification before selling whipped cream canisters, such as Reddi-wip, to customers. However, the law doesn’t apply to these types of canisters, Sen. Joseph Addabbo, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, confirmed to the AP. “Anyone can buy, without being carded or ID’d, a can of Reddi-wip or any other canister of whipped cream,” Addabbo told the AP. “What a minor can’t buy is the two-inch whipped cream charger, or cartridge that is filled with nitrous oxide.” The bill amends New York general business law, and adds a new section that defines the term “whipped cream charger” as “a steel cylinder or cartridge filled with nitrous oxide, that is commonly used in a whipped cream dispenser.” Reusable whipped cream dispensers, like the ones found in restaurants or coffee shops, are powered by such metal cartridges. But those chargers are not found inside the disposable whipped cream cans that are sold in most grocery stores. Disposable whipped cream cans contain a combination of cream and nitrous oxide that’s expelled under pressure through the bottle’s nozzle.

— Sophia Tulp


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