PolitiFact - Rulingshttp://www.politifact.com/The latest factchecks PolitiFact.com has revieweden-usMon, 13 Feb 2023 23:49:55 +0000https://static.politifact.com/img/pf_rss_logo.png<![CDATA[Dave Grohl - Should we thank Canada for football? Pretty much. Dave Grohl’s Super Bowl claim is largely right]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/dave-grohl/should-we-thank-canada-for-football-pretty-much-da/Dave Grohl - Should we thank Canada for football? Pretty much. Dave Grohl’s Super Bowl claim is largely rightMon, 13 Feb 2023 23:49:55 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/dave-grohl/should-we-thank-canada-for-football-pretty-much-da/

Super Bowl LVII had some remarkable moments. Rihanna performed the halftime show in a red jumpsuit and debuted a new baby bump, and the Kansas City Chiefs came back with a game-winning drive to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35.

There were a lot of bigtime commercials, too. One that caught our attention featured Foo Fighters founder and frontman Dave Grohl in a one-minute Super Bowl commercial for Canadian whisky company Crown Royal.

Grohl was seen sitting in a recording studio in the ad before he turned to the camera and said, "Today, let’s thank Canada." He then listed a number of things that the Great White North has contributed to society, including the rock band Rush, peanut butter, batteries, "Schitt’s Creek" stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and, of course, the fan-favorite whoopie cushion.

But it was one of the last things that Grohl credited Canada for inventing that made heads turn: "And thank you … for football," Grohl said. 

A sound engineer seated beside him looked up and said, "What? No way." 

"Yeah, look it up!" Grohl replied.

Well, we’re PolitiFact. So we looked it up. 

Turns out, Grohl is no pretender.

Modern, American-style football has gone through several iterations over its history. American universities were playing something they called "foot ball" in 1869, but the game resembled soccer more than anything else.

The first version of the game to use an oblong ball in the U.S. and somewhat resemble the sport’s current structure took place in 1874, when Montreal’s McGill University took its rules to the states to play Harvard. 

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told PolitiFact that he fact-checked the claim with the Pro Football Hall of Fame before Crown Royal’s ad ran. 

"It is accurate," McCarthy said. 

How the American football sausage was made

The game Americans now call football is closely related to two old English sports — rugby and soccer (which gets its name from a shortening of "association football"). It emerged at North American universities in the late 19th century, according to History.com, which highlights a Nov. 6, 1869, game between Princeton and Rutgers as "the first intercollegiate football contest."

But this was a soccer-style match, with rules adapted from the London Football Association, and it bore little resemblance to modern American football. 

Other colleges took up the sport in the 1870s, but Harvard University stuck to a rugby-soccer hybrid it called "the Boston Game."

In 1874, Harvard and McGill University in Montreal, agreed to play a couple of "Foot-ball" games in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The two universities had different rules, and the plan for this match was to play two different games — one by Harvard’s rules and one by McGill’s.

The teams met on May 13 and 14, 1874. The first game used Harvard’s rules: 11 men per side and a round ball that players kicked but were also able to pick up and run with at certain times. For the second game, they played McGill’s version: 13 players and an oblong ball that could be kicked, thrown or carried.

"There were downs, there were ‘tries’ in the rugby sense (which quickly came to be known as touchdowns) and there was tackling," one 2017 Canadian Broadcasting Corp. story said.

History.com said the McGill-Harvard game helped inspire modern football.

"In May 1874, after a match against McGill University of Montreal, the Harvard players decided they preferred McGill’s rugby-style rules to their own," the website said. "In 1875, Harvard and Yale played their first intercollegiate match, and Yale players and spectators (including Princeton students) embraced the rugby style as well."

McGill also stands by this origin story, saying on its website that "the very first modern football games" were played in Cambridge between the two schools. 

"In fact, the Harvard squad so enjoyed the Canadian innovations (running with the ball, downs and tackling) that they introduced them into a match with Yale the following year — and thus, college football took root in America," the university’s account reads.

But some sports historians noted the fluctuating nature of the game, and that different schools incorporated different rules. 

"I would also add the game was constantly changing," said Louis Moore, a sports historian at Grand Valley State University. "Even after that 1874 game, rules changed. What was the same, however, was that it was called foot ball, and recognized as such in 1869 when Rutgers and Princeton played."

Football has become known for the way it’s constantly changing, experts said.  

"It’s part of what makes the game and its history unique and special," said Rich Desrosiers, a spokesperson for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And although football may have originated in Canada, one American figure factors greatly in the way it’s played today: Walter Camp. 

Camp, who has been called the "father of American football," was a Yale student from 1876 to 1881 and played halfback and served as team captain. He eventually became the guiding force on the rules board of the Intercollegiate Football Association, which made two key changes to the game. It did away with the opening rugbylike "scrummage" and introduced the requirement that a team give up the ball after failing to move a specified yardage down the field  in a certain number of "downs." 

Camp is also credited with introducing other innovations, including the quarterback position, the line of scrimmage and the current scoring scale.

Our ruling

Grohl said in a Super Bowl ad that Canada invented football.

This is largely accurate. 

American football has gone through several changes over its history, but historians note that it was first introduced in the U.S. by Montreal-based McGill University in 1874. The NFL also confirmed the ad’s claim before it ran.  

We rate this claim Mostly True.

Samantha Putterman
<![CDATA[ Tweets - Rumor about NFL investigating Patrick Mahomes for drug use during Super Bowl started as satire]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/tweets/rumor-about-nfl-investigating-patrick-mahomes-drug/ Tweets - Rumor about NFL investigating Patrick Mahomes for drug use during Super Bowl started as satireMon, 13 Feb 2023 23:02:13 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/tweets/rumor-about-nfl-investigating-patrick-mahomes-drug/

The Kansas City Chiefs came back from a double-digit deficit in the first half to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles and win Super Bowl LVII. But some social media users are claiming the Chiefs’ win could be ruled illegitimate.

"#BREAKING: Chiefs Super Bowl legitimacy put on hold as NFL plans to launch an investigation on possible PED (performance-enhancing drug) use by Patrick Mahomes during halftime," a Feb. 12 tweet claimed. "Sources confirm his rapid postgame drug test came back POSITIVE and if guilty the Chiefs could be stripped of the win."

This tweet was shared from an account that claims to be an "esteemed sports journalist," but it appears to be satirical. The Twitter account’s profile picture was taken from a blog post about headshots. Though the Boston Globe logo looms behind the profile picture, nobody named Simon Charles is listed on the paper’s staff directory.

His claim seems as far-fetched as his profile. There is no evidence of the National Football League investigating players, including Chiefs quarterback Mahomes, for suspected performance-enhancing drug use, which is prohibited.

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the claim was "absolutely false." Under the NFL and the NFL Players Association’s performance-enhancing substances policy, five players from each team are randomly selected to be drug tested. Mahomes was not one of the Chiefs players chosen to be tested.

There also have been no reports from credible media outlets about Mahomes being investigated for possible drug use. 

At the end of the first half, Mahomes was tackled by an Eagles linebacker, aggravating a high ankle sprain the quarterback had suffered during the playoffs and was still recovering from.

Sports Illustrated reported that during halftime, Mahomes refused treatment for his ankle, telling the team’s staff that he was fine. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Mahomes was able to "push through the pain" and carry the team to victory.

We rate claims about a Mahomes investigation Pants on Fire!

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[Joe Biden - Biden says U.S. is losing ground to China in R&D spending. His rankings are off.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/joe-biden/biden-says-us-losing-ground-china-rd-spending-his/Joe Biden - Biden says U.S. is losing ground to China in R&D spending. His rankings are off.Mon, 13 Feb 2023 20:04:16 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/joe-biden/biden-says-us-losing-ground-china-rd-spending-his/

President Joe Biden spent the week before his State of the Union address touting rail tunnel projects in Baltimore and New York that would quicken trains and shorten commutes, courtesy of his administration’s $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

But even as he celebrated domestic projects, Biden said the United States has been falling behind global rivals in research and development investment.

Research and development spending supports everything from agriculture to human health, national defense, manufacturing and energy, according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.

"We used to rank No. 1 in the world in research and development, now we rank No. 9," Biden said Jan. 30 in Baltimore. "China used to rank No. 8, now it ranks No. 2. The risk of losing our edge as a nation — and China and the rest of the world catching up — is real." 

A White House spokesperson said Biden was referring to research and development spending as a percentage of gross domestic product. Biden did not say what time period he was using, and neither did the White House.

Our reporting found that Biden’s statement didn’t precisely match any of the nations’ specific rankings. But his claim contains a broader truth, in that China is narrowing the R&D gap with the United States and other nations. 

The White House spokesperson pointed us to data from two sources: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which shows gross domestic R&D spending by multiple sources, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber, who measured solely government-funded R&D spending. 

The National Science Foundation, a federal agency, and the OECD are most often cited on this topic and calculate R&D spending differently. The foundation, for instance, draws from National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics data and examines trends but doesn’t rank nations, while OECD does provide rankings. Therefore, these data sources are more useful for capturing general trend lines than for comparing with each other. 

President Joe Biden speaks Jan. 31, 2023, at the construction site of the Hudson Tunnel Project, in New York. (AP)

• Changes in the U.S. :The Paris-based OECD, which collects statistics on advanced industrialized nations, doesn’t show the U.S. ranking as high as No. 1 during the past 20 years; but it does show the U.S. ranking as high as fourth in 2000. The U.S. fell to 10th in 2010, but rebounded to fifth in 2020, the most recent year for OECD rankings.

Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation also found that U.S. investment in R&D has fallen over time. It reported that U.S. R&D spending as a percentage of GDP hit a high of almost 1.9% in 1964 and has generally slid since, hitting 0.6% in 2017.

• Changes in China: The OECD found that over the same period the U.S. was declining, China’s spending was rising, from 17th globally in 2000 to 12th in 2020.

Also, the National Science Foundation found that China’ R&D outlays have increased from 0.89% of gross domestic product in 2000 to 2.23% in 2017.

Finally, the analysis by MIT’s Gruber had ranked the United States seventh and China first. A White House spokesperson who cited Gruber’s study said Biden chose to say that China ranked second because the number underpinning that China ranking is in dispute. The spokesperson didn’t elaborate. 

Adjusting for purchasing power parities, which equalize GDP figures among countries with different currencies, China's R&D expenditures increased from 67% of U.S. expenditures in 2012 to 84% in 2021, and have continued to increase each year, said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Atkinson said that if China continued gaining ground at that rate, it "would catch up to the U.S. in about 10 years."

He also urged caution when using data about Chinese R&D: Because of the Chinese central government’s pressure to report high numbers, Chinese companies and government organizations may be counting things as R&D that U.S. organizations don’t.

Our ruling

Biden said, "We used to rank No. 1 in the world in research and development, now we rank No. 9. China used to rank No. 8, now it ranks No. 2."

None of Biden’s rankings specifically match any we found from widely cited studies. But there is an element of truth about the overall trend: China has narrowed its international R&D spending gap with the U.S. and other nations in recent decades. We rate his claim Mostly False. 

Matthew Crowley
<![CDATA[Joe Biden - Joe Biden is right that preschool benefits college attendance, though research varies]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/joe-biden/joe-biden-right-preschool-benefits-college-attenda/Joe Biden - Joe Biden is right that preschool benefits college attendance, though research variesMon, 13 Feb 2023 14:13:10 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/13/joe-biden/joe-biden-right-preschool-benefits-college-attenda/

During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden touted the importance of preschool for improving future economic performance, and he emphasized his point by citing academic research. 

"Studies show that children who go to preschool are nearly 50% more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two- or four-year degree, no matter their background they came from," Biden said on Feb. 7.

Experts said Biden’s statement is supported by research. However, they added that the outcomes in the main study supporting Biden’s statistic are on the high end compared with other academic findings.

The Chicago study

Both the White House and independent specialists told PolitiFact that the strongest piece of evidence supporting Biden’s claim is a 2018 study of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers program. The paper was published in the journal JAMA Network and was written by three researchers affiliated with the University of Minnesota: Arthur J. Reynolds, Suh-Ruu Ou, and Judy A. Temple.

It found that children who participated in a large-scale, preschool-to-third grade intervention had a 48% higher rate of degree completion — an associate degree or higher — compared with peers with lesser participation. The study followed 1,398 children up to age 35 and cited "greater benefits for those whose mothers were high school dropouts."

The takeaway, the authors wrote, was that "multiyear, comprehensive, preventive interventions beginning in early childhood can promote long-term educational success that contributes to positive health and economic outcomes."

Reynolds told PolitiFact that Biden’s assertion "certainly is supported by our long-term research."

Erica H. Greenberg, who studies early childhood education at the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, agreed that this Chicago program study supports Biden’s statement. She cautioned, however, that this is probably the high-water mark for assessments of its type. 

Greenberg said that in the Chicago program, about 93% of the children in the study were Black, and 7% were Hispanic; all were from lower-income families. The children studied were born in 1979 or 1980, allowing enough time to track their post-secondary educational achievement.

Other research suggests that preschool programs may offer the largest improvements for children who face the most severe socioeconomic disadvantages, such as the children in the Chicago program. 

"The data aren’t consistent across studies, and the impact varies depending on the type and length of preschool enrollment and the racial and socioeconomic background of the students," said Archana Pyati, a spokesperson for the Center for Law and Social Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.

Other studies

Experts cited a few other studies for comparison.

Tulsa studies. One 2023 study, led by Bill Gormley of Georgetown University, looked at 4,033 students in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It found that students who participated in a pre-K program in 2005-06 were up to 12% more likely to be attending college  at both two-year and four-year institutions by 2022.

A group of researchers that included several of the previous paper’s co-authors separately wrote in 2022 that students who attended Tulsa’s pre-K program saw benefits in high school, too, including higher attendance, a greater likelihood of passing courses, higher rates of enrollment in advanced courses, and a smaller likelihood of being held back a grade. It found the improvements were especially significant for students of color.

Boston study. Greenberg noted a 2021 study by academic researchers Guthrie Gray-Lobe, Parag Pathak and Christopher Walters that looked at a large-scale public preschool program in Boston. It found an 18% increase in college attendance for the preschool program’s participants, along with increases in SAT test-taking and high school graduation and decreases in disciplinary measures. It found no significant difference in achievement test scores. The study found greater benefits for boys than for girls.

Greenberg said this study benefits from having examined a larger, more recent, and more diverse sample than the Chicago study.

Reynolds, the Chicago study’s lead author, said the other studies support Biden’s general proposition, even if the scale of the impacts is smaller than the "nearly 50%" figure Biden used.

"There are many studies over many decades of different programs and populations that demonstrate these long-term effects," Reynolds said. 

He added that much depends on the strength of a preschool program. "Of course, like bad parenting, poor-quality programs don't yield long-run gains," Reynolds said.

Our ruling

Biden said, "Studies show that children who go to preschool are nearly 50% more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two- or four-year degree, no matter their background they came from."

There is one study that backs this up, and experts agreed that it’s credible.

Other studies of preschool programs have also shown gains in college attendance, but the rates have been lower, ranging from 12% to 18%. As a general pattern, experts said, the more socioeconomically disadvantaged the group of students is, the bigger the boost preschool provides for future college attendance.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Louis Jacobson
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - We know all about pants. Doctored image falsely shows Joe Biden wearing his backward.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/instagram-posts/we-know-all-about-pants-doctored-image-falsely-sho/ Instagram posts - We know all about pants. Doctored image falsely shows Joe Biden wearing his backward.Fri, 10 Feb 2023 23:24:23 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/instagram-posts/we-know-all-about-pants-doctored-image-falsely-sho/

Attempts on social media to make President Joe Biden appear feeble or confused are not uncommon. We’ve debunked numerous such claims with videos that were deceptively edited or taken out of context.

A new claim, using an old fake image that was making the rounds on TikTok back in October according to Snopes fact-checkers, is being shared again on Instagram to make it seem as if Biden put his pants on backward and went out in public.

"Joe Biden puts his pants on backwards," read a Feb. 10 Instagram post. It showed an image of Biden under the words, "C’mon man!"

Words below the image point to parts of the photo that allege to show Biden’s pants having no fly in the front, a belt loop where the buckle should be and a backward pocket.

This post was flagged as part of Instagram’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Having previously rejected a claim that purported to show President Donald Trump also wearing his pants backward — we were suspicious.

Using a reverse image search, we found a similar photo of Biden in an article about his visit to Puerto Rico on the website El Pais. The president and first lady Jill Biden were visiting the island Oct. 3, 2022, two weeks after it was struck by Hurricane Fiona.

The image on El Pais was taken by Reuters photographer Evelyn Hockstein. It shows Biden walking with his wife, who is wearing the same dress seen in the Instagram post, and Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, who is also wearing the same clothes in both photos.

Biden, too, is wearing the same light blue shirt and beige khakis in the Reuters photo as in the Instagram post. However, his belt buckle, belt loops, pockets and zipper are all in the appropriate places.

Other photos of Biden’s trip to Puerto Rico, including some taken by The Associated Press and shared on the White House Twitter account also showed the president was wearing his pants correctly that day, which, if you thought this was real, should be a relief.

In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, President Biden is taking additional action to build a more secure and resilient Puerto Rico – including more than $60 million in funding for storm preparation and a new Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization team. pic.twitter.com/6ZhQlfJBZB

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) October 3, 2022

The photo in the Instagram post claiming Biden wore his pants backwards is clearly a fake. We rate this claim Pants (worn correctly) on Fire!

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[ Viral image - Gen. Mark Milley served multiple combat tours, despite claims otherwise]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/gen-mark-milley-served-multiple-combat-tours-despi/ Viral image - Gen. Mark Milley served multiple combat tours, despite claims otherwiseFri, 10 Feb 2023 23:17:46 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/gen-mark-milley-served-multiple-combat-tours-despi/

As chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley is the country’s highest-ranking military officer, as well as the main military adviser to President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and the National Security Council. 

But a recent Instagram post is incredulous that he’s worthy of the role. 

"Can someone explain to me how a man who never served in combat and never won a war has THIS many medals on his uniform?" the Feb. 8 post says sharing a photo of Milley.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But Milley, as a September 2019 New York Times article said before he became chairman, is "a four-star Army officer with multiple combat tours during his 39 years of service." 

When Milley was sworn in a day later, he said of his predecessor, U.S. Marine Corps. Gen. Joe Dunford, that he "served with him in combat" and that he considers Dunford a personal friend whose "friendship was forged with the unbreakable bonds of combat" 

Milley has been deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, among other places around the world, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

When he was sworn in as U.S. Army Chief of Staff in 2015, the Army noted that he brought an "extensive background of combat experience having deployed in support of numerous operational assignments."

His many awards and decorations include an "overseas service ribbon with numeral 5" and he’s "authorized to wear the combat infantryman badge with one star," according to the Association of the United States Army. 

We rate claims that he’s never served in combat False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Was someone in a Joe Biden mask at the State of the Union? No, It was Biden himself]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/was-someone-joe-biden-mask-state-union-no-it-was-b/ Facebook posts - Was someone in a Joe Biden mask at the State of the Union? No, It was Biden himselfFri, 10 Feb 2023 22:44:47 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/was-someone-joe-biden-mask-state-union-no-it-was-b/

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., drew attention for wearing a KN95 mask at the State of the Union address, but rumors of another kind of face covering spread on social media after President Joe Biden’s speech. 

"What in the mask world is goin on hither?" reads one post showing photos of Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"Seems like a mask issue last night," another post said, showing photos of just Biden. "One earlobe attached, one not." 

People commenting on the posts echoed what’s implied here: Biden — not to mention Harris and Schumer — weren’t actually at the State of the Union. But people wearing masks pretending to be them were. 

These posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

These claims are unfounded, and fodder that we’ve dug into before, as people see skin folds, shadows and age as evidence of a plot to mislead the public about who the commander in chief really is. 

It’s Biden, and on Feb. 8, he delivered a speech before Congress. 

We rate these posts Pants on Fire! 

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Photo doesn’t show a deputy U.S. marshal behind President Joe Biden at the State of the Union]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/photo-doesnt-show-a-deputy-us-marshal-behind-presi/ Facebook posts - Photo doesn’t show a deputy U.S. marshal behind President Joe Biden at the State of the UnionFri, 10 Feb 2023 22:13:51 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/photo-doesnt-show-a-deputy-us-marshal-behind-presi/

From U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah scolding fellow Republican U.S. Rep. George Santos of New York, to speculation about a misfired kiss, maybe you missed another moment primed for political gossip: A deputy U.S. marshal looming behind President Joe Biden at his recent State of the Union address. 

At least that’s what a recent Instagram post claimed happened. It  shows a man with an official-looking lapel pin standing behind Biden as the president talked to members of Congress after his speech. 

"Last night at the SOTU-Marshals keeping a close eye on the resident," the post’s caption says. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A call to the U.S. Marshals Service quickly cleared this one up. The photo doesn’t show a deputy, a spokesperson for the agency said, adding that the person looks like a U.S. Secret Service agent. 

The Secret Service didn’t respond to PolitiFact’s email about the Instagram post, but the State of the Union is considered a "national special security event," which puts the Secret Service in charge of much of the event’s planning, CNN reported. A Secret Service spokesperson told

CNN that the agency "works very closely with all partners to ensure the maximum level of safety during the State of the Union." The spokesperson declined to comment on specifics. 

We’ve previously debunked claims that photos showed Biden surrounded by deputy U.S. marshals. The men in those images were Secret Service agents.

We rate this post False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Viral image - Puppy rescue filmed in India in 2019, not in Turkey or Syria after the recent earthquake]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/puppy-rescue-filmed-india-2019-not-turkey-or-syria/ Viral image - Puppy rescue filmed in India in 2019, not in Turkey or Syria after the recent earthquakeFri, 10 Feb 2023 21:28:28 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/puppy-rescue-filmed-india-2019-not-turkey-or-syria/

The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has wrought enormous suffering, a soaring death toll and some good news in its wake, such as the Feb. 10 rescue of a 10-day-old baby and his mother who were trapped in the ruins of a building. 

But a video of a dog desperately trying to reach her puppies is not new. Still, some social media posts have suggested that it’s more footage from the quake’s aftermath. 

"The dog’s child was buried under the ruins after the earthquake," reads the text of a video shared on Instagram on Feb. 8. The video shows a dog clawing at rubble with the help of a man who eventually pulls puppies from under the rocks.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Animal Aid Unlimited, an animal rescue center, hospital and sanctuary in India, posted the footage on its verified Facebook account in August 2019, writing that the dog was trying to "free her buried babies who were trapped after a house collapsed in the rain." The man in the clip can be seen wearing an Animal Aid Unlimited shirt. There’s no mention of an earthquake. 

We rate claims that this clip was filmed after the Turkey-Syria earthquake False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Viral image - Have COVID-19 vaccines caused all COVID-19 deaths in Canada? No]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/have-covid-19-vaccines-caused-all-covid-19-deaths/ Viral image - Have COVID-19 vaccines caused all COVID-19 deaths in Canada? NoFri, 10 Feb 2023 21:04:39 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/have-covid-19-vaccines-caused-all-covid-19-deaths/

Canada’s government has not published data showing that all COVID-19 deaths in the country are caused by COVID-19 vaccines, despite claims spreading online. 

"100% of COVID deaths in Canada now due to mRNA vaccine, new data shows," reads a screenshot of a Feb. 2 headline shared Feb. 5 on Instagram. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The blog post with that headline provides no evidence for this claim. We asked the Public Health Agency of Canada about the allegation and the agency’s media relations office directed us to reported side effects from all types of COVID-19 vaccines, not just mRNA, through Jan. 6, the most recent date with available data. 

Since the pandemic started, more than 50,000 people in Canada have died from  COVID-19. 

Four hundred deaths following COVID-19 vaccination also have been reported in Canada. Of those, four were classified as "consistent with causal association to immunization" after being reviewed by scientific and medical professionals, according to the email from Public Health Agency of Canada. 

As for the other deaths following vaccination, "Simply because a death occurred following immunization does not mean the vaccine or vaccination caused that death," the agency said in an email. 

The agency added that "vaccination remains one of the most effective ways to protect against serious illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19 infection." 

We rate the claim that "100% of COVID deaths in Canada now due to mRNA vaccine" False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Viral image - Photo of Donald Trump, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador kissing is altered]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/photo-donald-trump-mexican-president-andres-manuel/ Viral image - Photo of Donald Trump, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador kissing is alteredFri, 10 Feb 2023 21:02:59 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/photo-donald-trump-mexican-president-andres-manuel/

One-time presidential candidate Marianne Williamson called for a "politics of love," but we’re not sure this is what she meant. 

An image circulating on social media appears to show former President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador kissing on the mouth. 

The photo, as you may have suspected, was altered. 

An Instagram post sharing it was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The image of Trump comes from a picture snapped at a 2020 campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa. He was kissing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on the cheek. 

Trump hosted López Obrador at the White House that year, but he was wearing a different colored tie than in the Instagram post image. 

We rate claims that this photo is authentic False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - GOP wants a ‘30% tax on everything’? That ignores taxes that would end, bill’s limited chances]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/gop-wants-a-30-tax-on-everything-that-ignores-taxe/ Facebook posts - GOP wants a ‘30% tax on everything’? That ignores taxes that would end, bill’s limited chancesFri, 10 Feb 2023 20:33:31 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/facebook-posts/gop-wants-a-30-tax-on-everything-that-ignores-taxe/

A post shared on Facebook left out important details when it claimed how much taxes Republicans want to impose.

"In the month since Republicans took the House majority," the post said, they are trying to "impose a 30% tax on everything."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A House Republican introduced a bill to create a 30% federal sales tax. But it would have to overcome long odds to become law — and even if it did, it would eliminate several other taxes in the process.

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., introduced the FairTax Act on Jan. 9. It would abolish the IRS and impose a national sales tax. The bill states that the rate would be 23% in 2025, with adjustments in subsequent years. 

But experts, including the Tax Policy Center and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said the number is actually 30%, as has been widely reported in news stories.

Two important details:

The bill would not simply add a tax. It would also end federal taxes on income, payroll, estates and gifts. 

The bill has limited support — 25 House co-sponsors, all Republicans — and heavy opposition. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pledged to defeat it; President Joe Biden vowed to veto it.

Some conservatives have backed such a plan for two decades. The reason it is drawing attention this year is because House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., agreed to hold a hearing on it, despite opposing it

Because the post contains only an element of truth, ignoring critical facts that would give a different impression, we rate it Mostly False.

Tom Kertscher
<![CDATA[Rick Scott - Sen. Rick Scott’s false claim that Joe Biden ‘cheated’ on taxes]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/rick-scott/is-joe-biden-a-tax-cheat-as-rick-scott-says-thats/Rick Scott - Sen. Rick Scott’s false claim that Joe Biden ‘cheated’ on taxesFri, 10 Feb 2023 19:56:52 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/rick-scott/is-joe-biden-a-tax-cheat-as-rick-scott-says-thats/

Florida Sen. Rick Scott — the Republican target of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union criticism about potential Social Security and Medicare cuts — quickly released an ad that took aim at Biden. 

Biden "cheated on his taxes and got away with it," Scott said in the ad, which he announced Feb. 7 via tweet. "Biden improperly used a loophole to dodge half a million dollars in taxes that should have gone to Medicare. Now that Biden has ripped off Medicare for half a million dollars, he wants to close the loophole and raise your taxes."

Biden's State of the Union swipe focused on Scott’s 2022 proposal to downsize federal government by phasing out all federal legislation within five years and requiring Congress to  newly pass any laws they want to keep. A sentence in Scott’s proposal about sunsetting federal programs doesn’t explicitly mention Medicare or Social Security, but both would seem to be included since they were created by federal legislation.

Scott, who is running for re-election in 2024, timed the ad to coincide with Biden’s visit to Tampa, Florida, where Biden discussed his plans for Social Security and Medicare. 

Here, we will fact-check Scott’s claim that Biden "cheated on his taxes and got away with it." 

We found that on their 2017 and 2018 joint tax filings, Joe and Jill Biden used a strategy to lower their tax bill that some people have criticized and called a giveaway to wealthy taxpayers. Although tax experts consider its use to be an aggressive interpretation of tax law, they said the strategy is legal, relatively common and previously used by other politicians. 

We contacted Scott’s campaign and did not receive a response. 

How the Bidens used a legal tax loophole

Scott’s ad cites a July 2019 Wall Street Journal article that found the Bidens formed S corporations, a type of special taxing entity, and routed income from books and speeches through the corporations. Doing so might have saved them up to $500,000, the article estimated, because it allowed the couple to avoid paying 3.8% in taxes that fund Medicare. If the income had not been routed through corporations, it likely would have been treated as personal income subject to payroll taxes, which includes funding for Medicare. 

Taxpayers who own an S corporation can legally avoid the 3.8% in taxes as long as the corporation pays them "reasonable compensation" that is subject to payroll taxes. 

However, tax experts say that the definition of "reasonable compensation" is subject to interpretation. In 2017 and 2018, the Bidens’ S corporations reported $13 million in profit that wasn’t subject to the 3.8% tax, while allocating less than $800,000 to the Bidens as "compensation." If the $13 million had been reported as personal income subject to the 3.8% tax, the Bidens would have owed an estimated $500,000 for Medicare funding.

The Bidens are not unique in using S corporations, a strategy informally called the "Gingrich-Edwards" loophole. Its moniker comes from two presidential candidates — former Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. — who used the tactic to reduce their tax liability. 

When Biden left the vice presidency, the couple’s income rose for two years, to about $15 million over 2017 and 2018, including from Joe Biden’s book about his late son Beau. Overall, the Bidens paid $3.7 million in taxes in 2017 and $1.5 million in 2018.

Steve Rosenthal of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center said he considers using an S corporation this way an "aggressive" strategy.

"Many view routing income for services through an S corporation to save Medicare taxes as a ‘loophole,’" he said. Rosenthal added that former President Donald Trump apparently also used this loophole.

Rosenthal expressed skepticism that the amount the Bidens allocated as compensation was reasonable. But he said he would not describe Biden as a "tax cheat," and he said what the Bidens did was far short of illegal.

Rosenthal also drew a distinction between Biden, who willingly released his tax information to the public, and Trump, who fought a multi-year legal battle to shield his tax information from the public. "Biden did not hide anything, which, to me, is important," Rosenthal said.

Kyle Pomerleau, a tax expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agreed that there is leeway in the use of S corporations, and "taxpayers use that leeway to legally avoid taxes." 

Pomerleau agreed with Rosenthal that Biden’s tactic "is more accurately described as tax avoidance — maybe somewhat aggressive tax avoidance."

The IRS evaluated a 2022 complaint about the Bidens’ filings for 2017 and 2018 and did not appear to take action. 

A former Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, Chris Jacobs, filed a complaint in February 2022 with the IRS about the Bidens’ use of S corporations, the New York Post reported in May 2022. The IRS’s whistleblower office sent Jacobs a letter dated April 2022 that said the information he provided did not result in any collection of taxes or penalties. 

The letter, which Jacobs forwarded to PolitiFact, was labeled "final determination" under the IRS code and "denial."

The Biden and Obama administrations both proposed eliminating the use of S corporations, but neither administration succeeded.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told PolitiFact, "During the first routine audit of this administration, tax years 2017 and 2018 were discussed with the IRS, who examined the finances of the S-corporations going back to their inception in 2017. They challenged nothing."

Scott, a former health care company chief executive, has his own history with Medicare. In 1997, federal agents said they were investigating whether Scott’s company, Columbia/HCA, had committed Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Scott resigned a few months later, and the company later settled and was fined $1.7 billion, a record at the time

Our ruling

Scott said President Joe Biden "cheated on his taxes and got away with it."

The Bidens’ 2017 and 2018 tax filings showed that they used S corporations to shield a portion of their income from as much as $500,000 in taxes. Some experts consider the tactic to be an "aggressive" way to legally avoid taxes.

However, experts agreed that this would not be characterized as cheating, much less illegal. There’s a long history of high-income taxpayers using it, including politicians from both parties.

When the IRS evaluated a complaint about the Bidens’ filing, the agency appears to have not taken any action on it.

We rate the statement False. 

RELATED: Fact-checking Joe Biden’s claim about his own income

RELATED: Fact-checking Joe Biden's 2023 State of the Union address

Louis Jacobson
<![CDATA[ Viral image - The Mars Curiosity rover photographed rocks, not Third Reich relics]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/mars-curiosity-rover-photographed-rocks-not-third/ Viral image - The Mars Curiosity rover photographed rocks, not Third Reich relicsFri, 10 Feb 2023 19:56:30 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/viral-image/mars-curiosity-rover-photographed-rocks-not-third/

Should David Bowie have been singing about the Third Reich on Mars instead of "Life on Mars?"

A recent Facebook post suggests as much. 

"NASA Curiosity finds Nazi helmet on Mars," the Feb. 5 post says, urging users to "read stories about Nazi UFO technology." 

There are also two images in the post of what appears to be a rusted helmet and an image of what looks like a rock that resembles a hat or helmet. 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union was the first person in space in 1961, more than 15 years after the fall of Nazi Germany. He didn’t go to Mars; no humans have. 

NASA’s Curiosity Rover launched in November 2011 and landed on Mars in August 2012 with a mission to determine whether Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support small life forms. The rover has captured more than half a million images that NASA publishes on its website. We couldn’t find the image in the Facebook post in that collection, but a NASA spokesperson said it looks as if it could be from the rover. 

Scientists working on the Curiosity mission have discovered interesting rock textures suggesting that lakes were around for much longer than expected on one Martian mountain Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. But they haven’t identified any helmets.

 But seeing what looks like a helmet, or another recognizable item in the rocks, isn’t unusual. NASA has a page dedicated to such, what it calls, "space oddities." 

"This happens because our brains often try to see shapes that are familiar, something we can relate to," according to NASA. "It happens with clouds, rocks, celestial bodies." 

Consider the "man in the Moon," or a 1976 image from Viking 1, the first aircraft to land on Mars. Some people thought they saw a face, but the shape was actually caused by missing photographic data called "bit errors." And in 2022, we fact-checked claims that the Curiosity Rover photographed a doorway, suggesting extraterrestrial life. But the rock formation photographed was no portal; it was a naturally occurring crevice that appears elsewhere on the planet. 

We rate claims that the Curiosity Rover found a Nazi helmet on Mars False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[Kayleigh McEnany - Are Biden’s border policies to blame for fentanyl deaths? Experts say no]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/kayleigh-mcenany/are-bidens-border-policies-to-blame-for-fentanyl-d/Kayleigh McEnany - Are Biden’s border policies to blame for fentanyl deaths? Experts say noFri, 10 Feb 2023 17:22:34 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/kayleigh-mcenany/are-bidens-border-policies-to-blame-for-fentanyl-d/

President Joe Biden may have been seeking a bipartisan solution to America’s staggering fentanyl crisis when he raised the issue at his State of the Union address Feb. 8. But some lawmakers in the audience immediately tried to lay blame at his feet.

"Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year," the president said after introducing a father who lost his 20-year-old daughter to the drug.

There was an immediate uproar from Republican lawmakers, with some shouting "border" at Biden. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., yelled, "It’s your fault!"

It was a sentiment echoed by many Republican politicians and others on social media in the aftermath of Biden’s address.

Kayleigh McEnany, a former press secretary for Donald Trump and now a Fox News contributor, wrote in a Feb. 7 Facebook post, "Joe Biden: ‘Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year.’ Why? Because of Joe Biden's wide open southern border he has done nothing to fix!"

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

Although U.S. deaths from fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, have risen sharply since Biden took office, data shows they’ve been increasing for the past decade, including during the Trump administration. Immigration encounters at the southern border have escalated under Biden, but the southern border is not open. Experts say the vast majority of fentanyl being smuggled in comes through ports of entry, not people trying to sneak into the country.

Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said conflating migrants and drugs is an "old script" pushed for political advantage by Republicans.

Fentanyl "is not carried on the backs of migrants. Drug traffickers deal with professionals, not amateurs, and they prefer U.S. citizens," he said.

Fentanyl deaths in the U.S.

Alexandra Coscia, a Fox News spokesperson for McEnany, pointed us to several articles, including one from PolitiFact, that show the scope of the fentanyl crisis, as well as data showing yearly increases in the amount of the drug seized at the border. In 2021, according to a Washington Post article Coscia sent us, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. — two-thirds were from fentanyl — and the number of people killed by the drug has climbed 94% since 2019.

But that article, an overview of a multiple-part investigation by the Post, also blamed "successive administrations" for failing to detect the growing problem. It links to another Post article that said, "Presidents from both parties failed to take effective action in the face of one of the most urgent threats to the nation’s security."

There were 71,238 U.S. deaths from synthetic drugs, mostly fentanyl, in 2021, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a 23% increase from 2020, Trump’s final year in office, when there were 57,834 deaths. Overdose deaths from fentanyl and other drugs have been rising since 2014, according to CDC data

Why is fentanyl so deadly? Adam Isacson, defense oversight director at the Washington Office on Latin America, a research and human rights advocacy group, said the U.S. seems to be in what he called "the third wave of the 21st century opioid crisis."

After prescription opioids, "pill mills" and heroin, he said, "traffickers have found fentanyl even easier to produce — no need to plant poppy fields," he said. 

"Each wave of opioid is even more concentrated than the last, requiring smaller and smaller amounts to get high — or to overdose. It’s just too easy and cheap now to accidentally administer a fatal dose," Isacson said.

Drug users often don’t know exactly what they’re taking, he said. "It’s not like there’s a label" showing the contents.

Most fentanyl is smuggled across the southern border, but not by immigrants

Most illegally sourced fentanyl in the U.S. comes from Mexico through the southern border. Fentanyl seizures at the border have been rising since fiscal year 2015. Most recently, fentanyl seizures climbed from 11,200 in fiscal year 2021 to 14,700 in 2022,  U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows.

So far in fiscal year 2023, which started in October, border officials have seized more than 9,400 pounds of fentanyl. In November alone, 4,500 pounds were seized, nearly as much as was seized in all of fiscal year 2020.

Most fentanyl is smuggled at ports of entry by U.S. citizens, not by immigrants crossing the border illegally. About 9,100 pounds of the 9,400 seized so far this fiscal year were seized there. 

"The drug cartels have no need to send the drugs with people who are crossing the border without authorization," said Michelle Mittelstadt, communications and public affairs director at the Migration Policy Institute. "They are able to reach the U.S. market with ever-rising quantities of fentanyl by going through official crossings." 

Immigrants who seek asylum and turn themselves in to authorities at the border are "not suitable contraband carriers," said Josiah Heyman, director of the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Neither are people who sneak into the country between ports of entries. Those immigrants are often arrested, and some get lost or die in the desert, he said.

"Drug smuggling operations don’t want that sort of loss," said Heyman, adding that they prefer to smuggle the drugs in vehicles through ports of entry. 

Although a lot of fentanyl is seized at ports of entry, some obviously gets through. Even a limited rate of smuggling success "is easily enough to supply U.S. demand," Heyman said.

Isacson said although "we can’t know what’s not getting caught," it’s likely that seizure data at the border "points to trends by showing a small share of total traffic."

Venezuelan migrants line up  Dec. 22, 2022,  in Matamoros, Mexico, to receive a ticket for a date to apply for asylum in the U.S. (AP)

The southern border isn’t ‘wide open’

There have been 4.5 million encounters with migrants at the southern border between February 2021, Biden’s first full month in office, and December 2022. But McEnany is wrong to suggest that’s because the border has been "wide open" since he took office, a claim we’ve tackled several times.

The Biden administration continues to enforce immigration laws and policies at the border, including Title 42, a public health policy that has so far quickly expelled more than 2.1 million immigrants. There are also fences, drones and surveillance technology, as well as about 20,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents who help limit who and what comes into the United States.

Border security funding under Biden is comparable to funding under Trump’s administration. An omnibus spending bill passed in December will provide $16.7 billion for Customs and Border Protection in fiscal year 2023. That includes $88 million to increase personnel between ports of entry and $60 million to hire hundreds of border patrol officers and other staff.

What more can be done at the border?

McEnany didn’t say what specific border policies Biden should change. Ogles, who shouted that the fentanyl deaths were Biden’s fault, later told The Hill that Biden could "close that border with a stroke of a pen."

Mittelstadt said closing the southern border as Ogles suggests would require shutting down all entries and crossings along nearly 2,000 miles, including to legal traffic. She said the "policy conversation would have a better chance of succeeding" if it focused on better detection at ports of entry, better intelligence collection, disruption of drug cartel activities and more anti-corruption efforts.

The Biden administration is touting investments to scan more vehicles at ports of entry and enlisting help from Mexico and other countries to disrupt suppliers. 

"It will require a highly sustained and well-resourced set of operations to make a dent in fentanyl trafficking," Mittelstadt said. "There clearly is an incentive for Congress and the administration to work cooperatively together to provide adequate resources to respond effectively."

Heyman said short-term solutions to stopping the fentanyl crisis include rooting out corruption in U.S. border agencies and law enforcement. In the long run, he said, the U.S. needs better "public health approaches to shrink the demand for hard drugs."

Isacson said there’s not much Biden could have done in two years to dramatically slow the increased fentanyl flow through the southern border, except for perhaps "a more rapid installation of detection technologies," including drug-sniffing dogs. Such equipment has been coming on line, which is partly why there are increased seizures, he said.

The border is "one link on the chain," Isacson said. Another is making addiction treatment more available to tamp down demand. More solutions lie beyond the border, he said.

"A more effective approach would start well south of the border," he said, "addressing corruption and other law-enforcement and intelligence weaknesses in Mexico, including proliferation of Chinese-made precursors, that have allowed fentanyl and other synthetic drug production to thrive there." 

Precursors are chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs such as fentanyl. Last year, the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to control three chemicals used by drug traffickers to produce fentanyl.

Our ruling

McEnany said in a Facebook post that "Joe Biden's wide open southern border" is to blame for fentanyl deaths in the U.S.

Fentanyl deaths in the U.S. were rising before Biden took office but have increased during his administration. But there’s no evidence the border is "wide open" under Biden. Funding for border security and border patrol staffing has remained largely on par with the Trump administration.

Although more migrants have attempted to enter the U.S. illegally under Biden, experts said those people are not the ones smuggling fentanyl into the country. The drugs, trafficked by Mexican cartels, are generally coming through legal ports of entry, experts say and data shows. About 86% of federal fentanyl trafficking arrests were of U.S. citizens, data shows.

We rate the claim False

Jeff Cercone
<![CDATA[Mike Palicz - Check, please. Are IRS agents coming for servers’ tips?]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/mike-palicz/check-please-are-irs-agents-coming-for-servers-tip/Mike Palicz - Check, please. Are IRS agents coming for servers’ tips?Fri, 10 Feb 2023 15:27:58 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/10/mike-palicz/check-please-are-irs-agents-coming-for-servers-tip/

If you work in the service industry and rely on tips, a recent claim on social media may have alarmed you.

Mike Palicz, director of tax policy at the conservative advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, tweeted Feb. 7: "Those 87,000 new IRS agents that you were promised would only target the rich… They’re coming after waitresses’ tips now: ‘monitoring of employer compliance based on actual annual tip revenue and charge tip data from an employer’s point-of-sale system.’"

A screenshot of his tweet was also posted on Instagram, which was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

When PolitiFact reached out to Palicz, he said his tweet links to and quotes from the "IRS proposed rule."

Palicz’s tweet linked to a Feb. 6 IRS release about a notice for a proposed revenue procedure that would establish the Service Industry Tip Compliance Agreement (SITCA) program.

But Palicz’s statement leaves out important details about the notice, and what the voluntary program is all about.

First, tips are already subject to federal income taxes.

Second, the new IRS proposal is just that at the moment — a proposal. It is a plan that is open for public comment and offers a new strategy for service industry employers to voluntarily participate as a means to report tips to the IRS. People can comment on the plan by mail or electronically until May 7

As the IRS described it, the program aims to use advancements in point-of-sale, time and attendance systems, and electronic payment settlement methods to improve tip reporting compliance.

The IRS is proposing this new effort as a means to replace existing voluntary tip compliance agreements known as the Tip Reporting Alternative Commitment Program, the Tip Rate Determination Agreement Program and the Employer-Designed Tip Reporting Program. 

The IRS established these existing agreements in the late 1990s and early 2000s for industries such as restaurants and casinos, in which tipping is customary. According to the IRS, the agreements were designed to enhance tax compliance among tipped employees and their employers through taxpayer education, instead of traditional audit techniques.

Employers that currently operate under these existing agreements would be able to transition to the newly proposed Service Industry Tip Compliance Agreement, which would serve as the sole tip reporting compliance program for all service industries, excluding the gaming industry.

IRS spokesperson Eric Smith said the tweet is a mischaracterization and noted that tip income has always been taxable.

"This is not a proposal for the auditing of servers," read a separate statement the IRS sent to PolitiFact. "Yesterday’s action was a proposal for comment — not a rule — based on over a decade of feedback from restaurants and other businesses seeking the increased flexibility for their overall tax compliance on tips."

A 2018 study by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that 30% of employers with tip reporting agreements that filed forms for the 2016 tax year had projected unreported tips totaling close to $1.66 billion.

PolitiFact previously fact-checked claims citing the "87,000 IRS agents" figure, which stems from a 2021 assessment from the Treasury Department on how it would use $80 billion in new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act. The report said the funding could pay for 86,852 new full-time equivalent positions and that the hiring would take place over a 10-year period.

Not all of these hires would work as auditors or in enforcement. The money will also be used to upgrade technology and taxpayer services.

The Treasury Department previously said audits will not increase for small businesses and households below the $400,000 threshold.

Our ruling

Mike Palicz claimed that 87,000 IRS agents will now be "coming after waitresses’ tips," after the IRS announced a new service industry tip reporting program.

Tips are already subject to federal income taxes. But the IRS has proposed a new, voluntary tip program to replace existing programs of this type. It is only a proposal for now, and the IRS is seeking public comment for it. 

Similar voluntary tip reporting programs have been in place for decades now.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate this claim Mostly False.

RELATED: Fact-checking Joe Manchin on the targeting of IRS audits

Loreben Tuquero
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - Houston, we have a problem: Misinformation about the Space Station is spreading on Earth]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/facebook-posts/houston-we-have-problem-misinformation-about-space/ Facebook posts - Houston, we have a problem: Misinformation about the Space Station is spreading on EarthThu, 09 Feb 2023 20:35:42 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/facebook-posts/houston-we-have-problem-misinformation-about-space/

A Facebook post airing unfounded claims about space has an unfounded caption: "There are no humans on what they call the ‘International Space Station.’" 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The International Space Station has been continuously occupied since November 2000, an international crew of astronauts live and work on it, according to NASA

Currently orbiting the Earth in the space station: Frank Rubio, Dmitri Petelin, Koichi Wakata, Josh Cassada, Nicole Mann, Sergey Prokopyev and Anna Kikina. 

NASA maintains a blog with updates about the station, including the Feb. 9 launch of an uncrewed rocket that departed from Kazakhstan to take fresh supplies to the station. 

Photos and videos of humans aboard the station are shared on the space station’s Twitter account, among other platforms. The astronaut with the U.S. record for spending the most time living and working in space? Peggy Whitson, who clocked 665 days in September 2017.

We rate claims that no humans are in the space station False.

Ciara O'Rourke
<![CDATA[ Instagram posts - The earthquake in Syria and Turkey was a real natural disaster, and not a political attack]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/instagram-posts/earthquake-syria-and-turkey-was-real-natural-disas/ Instagram posts - The earthquake in Syria and Turkey was a real natural disaster, and not a political attackThu, 09 Feb 2023 20:26:06 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/instagram-posts/earthquake-syria-and-turkey-was-real-natural-disas/

The 7.8-magnitude temblor that killed more than 20,000 people in Turkey and Syria was no earthquake, but an orchestrated attack on Kurdish people, an Instagram user claimed.

"According to a firsthand source I have in Istanbul, Turkey, this ‘earthquake’ is a systemic attack against Kurdish people, who are anti-Islam," read the post, published Feb. 6, the day of the earthquake. 

Explaining the theory, the post claimed that the Kurds are anti-Islam, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t want to lose power in an election year and that cities hit by the quake are Kurdish areas.

The post, which was later removed, was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The post is false and ridiculous. 

There’s no question that an earthquake and its devastating aftershocks are what caused the growing death toll, and that natural factors triggered the quake.

"There is no chance that this tragic event was induced by humans," said James Gaherty, a professor in the School of Earth and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University. "This region is known to host natural events of this size and scope. It is undoubtedly a natural event."

What the post is about

Let’s first unpack some of what the post said aside from the earthquake.

The Kurds are one of the indigenous peoples of the Middle East and are predominantly Sunni Muslims, according to the  Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank.

Americans might be most familiar with the Kurds in Syria. In 2014, a U.S.-led international coalition partnered with Kurdish forces to fight the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS, terrorist group in Syria. 

In Turkey, a Kurdish separatist group has waged an insurgency since 1984 against Turkish authorities, including Erdogan, mainly seeking to establish an independent Kurdish state, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Erdogan is up for reelection in May.

Explaining earthquakes and the Feb. 6 quake

Now, to earthquakes.

An earthquake occurs when two blocks of the Earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is a fault

Geophysicist Lisa Wald, a spokesperson for the U.S. Geological Survey, told PolitiFact that the area around the Feb. 6 earthquake is "a very seismically active area, since it is in the region of the plate boundaries of three different tectonic plates." The quake was caused "by the plates moving slowly and their edges getting locked for a long time, and then the forces finally overcoming the friction and the plate edges suddenly slipping," she said.

It's the same kind of quake that occurs along the San Andreas Fault in California, NPR reported.

Since 1970, only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have occurred within 250 kilometers (155 miles) of the Feb. 6 earthquake, the Geological Survey said.

The quake devastated areas as far as 200 miles from the epicenter, including Diyarbakir, the world's biggest Kurdish city and the unofficial capital of Turkey’s eastern Kurdish regions, The New York Times reported.

Can humans induce quakes?

Hmans can trigger temblors, though none as big as the one on Feb. 6.

Earthquakes can be induced by such human activity as surface and underground mining, and injecting fluids into underground formations, according to the Geological Survey.

Wald said wastewater injection after hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for example, can trigger small- to moderate-sized earthquakes in a location "where there was a fault poised to have an earthquake already." The largest earthquake from this activity was around a magnitude 5, she said.

Our ruling

An Instagram post that was later taken down said: "This ‘earthquake’ is a systemic attack against Kurdish people." The claim was that there was a politically motivated attack and no earthquake.

Experts said there is no question that a 7.8-magnitude temblor on Feb. 6 is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths in Turkey and Syria.

We rate the post Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Photo shows Game of Thrones characters, not victims of earthquake in Turkey, Syria

Tom Kertscher
<![CDATA[ Facebook posts - The sauce is safe: Experts say Chick-fil-A dip ingredient isn’t a health hazard]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/facebook-posts/the-sauce-is-safe-experts-say-chick-fil-a-dip-ingr/ Facebook posts - The sauce is safe: Experts say Chick-fil-A dip ingredient isn’t a health hazardThu, 09 Feb 2023 20:10:39 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/facebook-posts/the-sauce-is-safe-experts-say-chick-fil-a-dip-ingr/

Social media users issued a warning about an ingredient in some of fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A’s dipping sauces, claiming it causes severe side effects. But don’t toss the sauce just yet.

In a TikTok video shared Jan. 29 on Facebook, a person points to an ingredient on a Chick-fil-A dipping sauce packet and says, "Hold up, that don’t look right." The person claims the ingredient, calcium disodium ethylene-diaminetetraacetate, or EDTA, is used during root canals and can cause "abnormal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, low blood pressure."

The person continues, "Too much (EDTA) can cause kidney damage, dangerously low calcium levels and death. Chick-fil-A, you got some explaining to do."

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

Some of Chick-fil-A’s dipping sauces — including Chick-fil-A sauce, Garden Herb Ranch, Zesty Buffalo and Sweet & Spicy Sriracha — contain a trace amount of calcium disodium EDTA, a food additive that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other global food authorities have deemed safe for consumption in small quantities.

Calcium disodium EDTA also is used in nonfood products, including medicine to treat lead poisoning. The side effects mentioned in the video are linked to calcium disodium EDTA as a medication, not as a food additive.

What is calcium disodium EDTA?

Calcium disodium EDTA is commonly used to preserve the flavor, color and texture of foods including canned soda, canned beans and vegetables, dressings and sauces, according to experts.

Those foods contain only a tiny amount of the additive. For example, the FDA limits the use of calcium disodium EDTA in sauces to 75 parts per million. In other words, calcium disodium EDTA can make up at most 0.0075% of a sauce, according to FDA regulations.

Chick-fil-A sauces that include calcium disodium EDTA contain a small amount that is within FDA regulations, a spokesperson told us. Chick-fil-A lists its product ingredients in descending order by weight, and calcium disodium EDTA is the last ingredient listed on the sauces. The sauce packets also note that the additive is included "to protect flavor."

When used in foods, the additive binds to trace amounts of naturally occurring metals, such as sodium, calcium, potassium or iron, to help preserve the food and reduce color and texture changes, said Anna Rosales, senior director of government affairs and nutrition at the Institute of Food Technologists.

Given the low amounts of calcium disodium EDTA in certain foods and that the additive is not readily absorbed in the human digestive tract, the possibility of an adverse health impact is minuscule, Rosales said.

Calcium disodium EDTA also is in nonfood products, such as cosmetics and cleaning supplies. The chemical can also be used, as the video said, in root canals and is an ingredient in medicine that’s used to treat lead poisoning.

It is not uncommon for a food ingredient to have other nonfood uses, the FDA told PolitiFact. For instance, vinegar can be used in small amounts in food, but also as a household cleaner.

The side effects mentioned in the video are associated with calcium disodium EDTA when it’s used in medication to treat lead poisoning, not when it is used as a food additive.

When used as a medicine, calcium disodium EDTA is injected into veins or muscles, according to the FDA. Dosage depends on a variety of factors, including someone’s weight, height and kidney function.

Our ruling

A video on Facebook claimed calcium disodium EDTA, an ingredient in some Chick-fil-A dipping sauces, can cause serious health problems.

Calcium disodium EDTA is commonly used as a food additive and the FDA has determined it is safe to consume in small quantities.

The side effects mentioned in the video are linked to calcium disodium EDTA when it is used in medication, not as a food additive.

We rate this claim False.

Sara Swann
<![CDATA[Joe Biden - Joe Biden says democracy is strengthening worldwide. Experts are dubious.]]>http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/joe-biden/have-global-democracies-gotten-stronger-biden-clai/Joe Biden - Joe Biden says democracy is strengthening worldwide. Experts are dubious.Thu, 09 Feb 2023 18:58:07 +0000http://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2023/feb/09/joe-biden/have-global-democracies-gotten-stronger-biden-clai/

In his second State of the Union address, President Joe Biden touted his administration’s accomplishments — domestic job growth, drug price cuts for seniors and infrastructure improvements. 

But he also mentioned something else that, he claimed, has improved globally since he took office: Democracy.

Talking about his efforts to limit the power of authoritarian leaders in countries like China and Russia, Biden said, "We face serious challenges across the world. But in the past two years, democracies have become stronger, not weaker. Autocracies have grown weaker, not stronger."

We wanted to know: Has the state of global democracy improved in the last couple of years since Biden took office? Have autocracies weakened? 

The answer is: Not really. Biden’s statement lacks evidence, and many researchers and human rights groups say that democracy has been waning around the world for several years. 

Experts said it’s difficult to determine whether Biden — who has made bolstering democracy a focus of his presidency — has had any impact.

PolitiFact reached out to the White House for more information but did not hear back. 

Research suggests global democracy is on the decline

The nonprofit Freedom House researches democracy, political freedom and human rights. The group says that democracy is under attack in every region of the world. The organization, which receives a majority of its funding from U.S. government grants, released its last annual report in February 2022. The title: "The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule." 

The report found that 60 countries have suffered democratic declines — an erosion of domestic human rights and equal treatment under law — over the previous year, while only 25 improved. Around 38% of the global population lived in countries that the organization deems aren’t free, the highest proportion since 1997. The group said that only about 20% of people in the world live in free countries, and pointed out democratic backsliding — a weakening of domestic human rights — in Sudan, Nicaragua and in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regained control and prompted a refugee crisis after Biden withdrew American troops from the country.

This isn’t a new problem. Freedom House’s latest report found that 2021 marked the 16th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

Once again, in 2021 more countries experienced declines rather than improvements in their fundamental freedoms. #FreedomInTheWorld 2022 shares how democracy’s defenders can work together to stop this shift in its tracks. https://t.co/muL6d4ECpM pic.twitter.com/MkNTOQCwXf

— Freedom House (@freedomhouse) March 1, 2022

Unsurprisingly, the share of the world's population living in Free environments has fallen as authoritarian practices proliferate. In 2021, 8 in 10 people lived in countries rated Partly Free or Not Free in #FreedomInTheWorld. Full details at https://t.co/SApq6zrd17 pic.twitter.com/NWsddoWi3a

— Freedom House (@freedomhouse) March 2, 2022

Daniel Brumberg, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University, said that Biden’s claim is broad and that the terms "weaker" and "stronger" are subjective, vague and difficult to fact-check.

"Some democracies have gotten a little stronger or at least stepped back from the brink of what we call ‘democratic backsliding’ (the U.S., Brazil), and the Ukraine is, in its own way, a stronger democracy now," Brumberg said. "But other autocracies remain as strong if not stronger than ever."

The Economist, in partnership with its sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit, releases a democracy index report each year. The survey rates the state of democracy across 167 countries on five measures — electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. Its 2021 index report found that global democracy had "continued its precipitous decline."

For 2022, the average global index score stagnated. Despite expectations of a rebound after the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions, the score was almost unchanged, at 5.29 (on a zero-to-10 scale), compared with 5.28 in 2021.

"From a global perspective," the report said, "the year 2022 was a disappointing one for democracy, given expectations that there might be a rebound in the overall index score as (COVID-19) pandemic-related prohibitions were lifted over the course of the year. Instead, the average global score stagnated."

The report highlighted some improvements made in Thailand, Angola, Niger and Greece. But these were counterbalanced by what it described as sharp declines in Russia, Belarus, Haiti, and Latin American countries such as Mexico and El Salvador. The Middle East and North Africa were the worst-performing regions by the Economist’s measures, with Tunisia, Iraq and Jordan all taking measures that sent their scores lower.

Biden’s democratic efforts 

Biden was sworn into office just weeks after thousands of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, trying to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.

Since then, Biden has emphasized the importance of democracies and has worked to bolster democratic institutions at home and abroad.

He held a White House democracy summit in December 2021 that convened world leaders, human rights activists and others to explore global democratic renewal. A year later, the Biden administration announced investments in free and independent media, anti-corruption efforts, and initiatives to support the work of activists and democratic reformers around the world. 

Biden has also worked to curb the power of China and Russia, but both still hold global political influence. Increased pressure isn’t stopping leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, who instituted domestic crackdowns on free speech, despite the country’s weakened economy and diplomatic isolation.

Other nations’ democracies are also under attack. In January, Brazil experienced a far-right assault on key government buildings over its presidential election results. In Israel, large crowds are gathering in protest of policies by its new far-right government that opponents say attempt to weaken the country’s democratic institutions. 

Our ruling

Biden claimed in his State of the Union speech that democracies around the world have grown stronger in the last couple of years, while autocracies have weakened.

We couldn’t find evidence to back that up. Recent research suggests that global democracy has declined over the past several years, while authoritarian leadership has risen. A nonprofit that researches democracy found in 2021 that only 20% of the world’s population is living in free countries. But some experts said the claim is broad and difficult to verify. Some democracies have gotten stronger since Biden took office — the U.S. is one of them, according to analysts. But others have weakened.

Without evidence showing the changes Biden claimed, we rate this False.

RELATED: Fact-checking Joe Biden's 2023 State of the Union address 

Samantha Putterman