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

Pistols sit on display during the first day of the Silver Spur Gun and Blade Show on Jan. 22 in Odessa, Texas. (Eli Hartman/Odessa American via AP)

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:

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CLAIM: Medication abortions are dangerous, and result in high rates of infection and hemorrhage. Parts of the baby are also left in the womb following the procedure.

THE FACTS: Research shows that medication abortions, which involve taking pills to end a pregnancy, are safe and effective, experts say. Complications after abortions using pills, such as infection, are rare. With a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could overturn the landmark abortion law Roe v. Wade expected soon, a post containing false claims that medication abortions are dangerous has circulated widely online. The procedure, which typically occurs prior to 11 weeks, involves taking two medications, called mifepristone and misoprostol, in pill form to end a pregnancy. “They are incredibly safe,” Emily Godfrey, an associate professor of family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, told the AP. “Less than 1% of people who have sought a medication abortion have had complications.” Alison Edelman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health &Science University, pointed to a 2018 report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that found “complications after medication abortion, such as hemorrhage, hospitalization, persistent pain, infection or prolonged heavy bleeding, are rare — occurring in no more than a fraction of a percent of patients.” The same report cited research finding that medication abortions have an “overall effectiveness rate of 96.7 percent for gestations up to 63 days (9 weeks).” “Medication abortion is incredibly safe in terms of all of those things,” Edelman said. “The risk of infection is less than 1%, harm to internal organs is almost nonexistent, and bleeding risk is less than 1% as well.” Some bleeding does occur as a result of medication abortion, which involves administering misoprostol to induce uterine contractions to expel the pregnancy from the uterus. However, the resulting bleeding is typically not serious. “It’s unusual to have bleeding to the point of needing an emergency intervention,” Edelman said. While tissue can remain in a patient’s uterus following a medication abortion, experts said, the procedure does not result in identifiable parts of a baby being left in the womb. “Before nine weeks, really what you’re seeing is a gestational sac,” Edelman said. “To have like an actual part of a baby left, would be, would be almost unheard of for a medical abortion process.” She added that a fetus at nine weeks is around a centimeter in size and a fetus at 11 weeks is “probably a centimeter and a half to two centimeters.” Godfrey said that prior to eight weeks, when many patients are seeking abortions, the pregnancy consists of an embryo, not a fetus. “There is no baby there. The embryo is the size of a piece of rice. There is nothing to be left behind,” she said. “Arms don’t really develop until nine weeks of pregnancy. Again, they are millimeters in length.”

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

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CLAIM: A drag performer flashed their genitals to children while reading aloud in a Minnesota library.

THE FACTS: The performer in this 2019 photograph was wearing several layers of nude tights, said Hennepin County Library Communications Manager Joshua Yetman. “There wasn’t any exposure to children,” Yetman said. As hateful and misleading rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ community has escalated in recent months on social media, Drag Queen Story Hour events hosted by libraries or bookstores have become a frequent target. This week, some social media users are resurrecting a 2019 photo of such an event in a Minneapolis suburb and reposting it with false claims it shows the performer exposing their genitals to children. The image captures the performer, who is wearing a short dress while seated in front of students, reaching to the side for a book. In some versions of the post, a black box labeled “CENSORED” has been added to the space between the performer’s legs. “This is literally a sex crime,” reads a June 10 tweet that was shared some 10,000 times. “Adult flashes his penis to young children at library’s drag queen story hour,” another tweet read. However, unedited versions of the image show that the performer was wearing opaque nude tights that covered their genitals, a fact that Yetman confirmed to the AP in a phone interview Monday. “The performer was wearing tan or nude-colored tights, several layers of tights,” Yetman said. “They did not expose themselves to the children.” Yetman said the photo was captured in October 2019 during a drag queen story hour program at Ridgedale Library in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka. The image circulated online with the same false claims shortly after the program happened, and the library system debunked them at the time. Yetman said the program finished its course in fall 2019, and hadn’t resumed during the pandemic. He said that while claims that a performer had flashed children generated a lot of conversation among library patrons, it wasn’t the reason that the program stopped running. He added that he didn’t know whether the library system would continue to offer similar programming in the future. “It will depend on what we hear from the community and what their interests are,” Yetman said. Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities are investigating a possible hate crime after a group of men allegedly shouted anti-LGBTQ slurs during Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library on June 11.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.

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CLAIM: A headline states “UN Warns of Massive Refugee Movement from Africa: 500 Million People On Their Way to Europe.”

THE FACTS: The headline, made to look as if it were published by the New York Post on March 15, is fabricated. Social media users shared the doctored image to falsely claim the outlet reported that the U.N. warned of 500 million refugees set to arrive in Europe. The fabricated image did not include the New York Post’s logo, but used the same typeface and the byline of a real Post reporter. The manufactured image also used an existing Post article as a template, keeping the byline, date and timestamp of 1:11 a.m. in the same positions, but adding the fake headline and a photo of refugees traveling by boat over it. The headline of the authentic March 15 article, which had nothing to do with migrants, read “Russia passes law to take control of foreign airplanes left in country.” Further, no such article referencing a U.N. statement on an imminent refugee movement from Africa exists in the New York Post’s online archives. Two spokespeople confirmed to the AP that the image is manipulated. “The Post never ran that story,” Post spokesperson Iva Benson wrote in an email. The information in the fabricated headline is also false. A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.N.’s refugee agency, told the AP that the office has not issued such a statement. “There was no such official communication from UNHCR,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, a communications representative overseeing the Middle East, North Africa and Libya. There is no evidence of any such migration arriving in Europe since March, either. And 500 million refugees would make up about 35% of Africa’s total population, according to U.N. population statistics. Migration flow data from the International Organization for Migration, a U.N. agency, shows that 50,630 refugees — from all countries — have arrived in Europe so far in 2022. The same data set shows that 151,417 refugees from around the world arrived in Europe total in 2021.

— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in New York contributed this report.

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CLAIM: A photo shows actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wearing a T-shirt with the phrase “Keep America Trumpless” on it.

THE FACTS: The image has been manipulated to add the message. The original photo, a promotional still for a 2015 film, shows the actor wearing a shirt that reads “Los Angeles Fire Department.” The edited photo, showing Johnson wearing a shirt printed with an American flag and the political slogan, began circulating on social media earlier this year and has reemerged in recent days, with a version this week gaining more than 10,000 retweets. But the image has been altered. The original image of Johnson can be found in a gallery of promotional photos for the 2015 Warner Bros. film “San Andreas,” which shows the actor’s shirt actually reads “Los Angeles Fire Department.” A spokesperson for the studio confirmed to The Associated Press that the original image was a promotional still for the film, in which Johnson plays a rescue helicopter pilot. Other images in the gallery show Johnson walking next to other actors in similar shirts, all taken from a similar angle as the shot that was manipulated. Johnson endorsed President Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020. He has occasionally mused about launching his own presidential bid.

— Associated Press writer Graph Massara in San Francisco contributed this report.

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