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:


A video circulating online doesn’t show the arrest of a suspect in the Maine mass shooting

CLAIM: An aerial video of a man lying on his stomach in the middle of a road, being detained by authorities, shows police arresting Maine mass shooting suspect Robert Card.

THE FACTS: While the video, which began circulating Wednesday night after the shootings, shows someone being detained in Lewiston, Maine, it doesn’t show Card. Officials said at a press conference the next morning that Card was still at large. Hundreds of heavily armed police and FBI agents searched for Card on Friday morning as residents in the area stayed close to home. Card, a U.S. Army reservist, is wanted in the fatal shootings of at least 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, the worst mass killing in the state's history. The clip, which was filmed at night from a building overlooking a street, shows authorities instructing a man in the middle of the street to lay on the ground and not move. “MAINE SHOOTER HAS BEEN ARRESTED KNOWN AS ROBERT CARD,” reads a post on X that shared the video. It had received approximately 3,600 likes and been shared about 2,200 times as of Friday. Local and state police have not responded to messages seeking additional comment on the misrepresented video. Comparisons with Google Maps images confirm the video was filmed across from the Lewiston Public Library, on Pine Street between Park Alley and Lisbon Street. A longer video that shows the same incident from a different angle also circulated online Wednesday night. It includes the screen name of a TikTok user who has previously posted content from the same location, although the video of this incident had been removed from their account Thursday. The longer video shows that after authorities detained the man in the street, the situation appeared to de-escalate. The man was helped up and moved to sit in one of the library’s large, storefront windows, and most of the officers walked away.

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


A black flag over Iran’s Imam Reza shrine isn’t a war cry. It represents mourning for Gaza victims

CLAIM: A major mosque in Iran raised a black flag to call Muslims to war over Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

THE FACTS: The Imam Reza shrine said the flag was raised as a symbol of mourning for the lives lost in Israel’s strikes on Gaza, and experts on Islam and Iran confirmed the flag includes a passage from the Quran that is meant to comfort Muslims that their sacrifices will one day be rewarded. Social media users are sharing the false claim alongside images and videos of the black flag flying over the distinctive gold dome of the shrine — a major pilgrimage site for Shiite Muslims in Iran’s northeast that includes a mosque, library and other institutions. Others claimed the black flag and its Farsi inscription was meant to herald the coming of the Mahdi, the final leader believed to appear at the end of times to lead Muslim people. But the black flag isn’t a call for war, and neither the flag’s text nor the shrine’s statement about the banner references the coming of the Mahdi or the end of time. In fact, an announcement on the shrine’s English-language Facebook page on Oct. 17 specifically describes it as a “mourning flag” that was raised in response to the deadly blast that rocked a hospital in Hamas-controlled Gaza that day. “In an unprecedented gesture and by the order of the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the black flag has been hoisted above the illuminated and pure Razavi dome, and drum beating will not be played tomorrow,” the post said, including #sorrow #mourning #sadness #grief and other hashtags. Islamic and Iranian experts confirmed the flag includes a line from the Quran roughly translated as “help from Allah and an imminent victory” or “conquest from Allah and victory is near.” That phrase isn’t traditionally used to declare war, but meant to bring comfort and hope to those struggling or engaged in battle that their sacrifice is not in vain and that Allah will grant them victory eventually, they said. Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University in New York, said the Quranic verse, in the context of the shrine’s Facebook post, means “solidarity” with the Palestinian cause and not an outright declaration of war against Israel. “To me it says nothing more than the obvious: the ruling government in Iran supports Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” he wrote in an email. “Nothing more, nothing less.” The Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank founded by Israeli analysts, agreed, noting that Islamic militants tend to use a different passage from the Quran when declaring war.

— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.


Video of Kim Jong Un doesn’t reference the Israel-Hamas war. The clip is old and mistranslated

CLAIM: A video shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying in a speech that he blames President Joe Biden for the latest Israel-Hamas war.

THE FACTS: The video is from 2020 and the version currently circulating online features incorrect English captions. The footage actually shows Kim celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party; he doesn’t reference the conflict in the Middle East or Biden at any point. In the misleading video circulating online, the English captions claim Kim says: “Under the Biden administration, conflicts erupt yearly. This year a war begins between Israel and Palestine.” “I’m afraid that if the Biden admin does not cease to exist in the next election, World War 3 may begin,” the captions continue. “Who knows what next year’s war will be. I support Donald Trump for President in 2024. Good Luck to Mr. Trump.” The video was shared on Instagram and TikTok, where one post garnered more than 223,000 likes. However, the video is old and the captions are completely inaccurate. Clips and images from the same speech can be seen in news reports from October 2020 about an event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Korean Workers Party. A transcript of the full speech translated to English by The National Committee on North Korea, a U.S.-based organization, does not mention anything about the Israel-Hamas war nor the 2024 U.S. presidential race. Multiple Korean speakers and an expert who reviewed the portion of the speech circulating online also confirmed Kim says nothing of the sort in the footage. Instead, Kim thanks his people and his military, saying: “The patriotic and heroic commitment shown by our People’s Army soldiers on the unexpected frontlines of epidemic prevention and natural disaster recovery this year is something that evokes tears of gratitude from everyone.” Ji-Young Lee, a professor of Korean Studies at American University who confirmed the captions are inaccurate, noted that the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas militants did create concerns in South Korea about a similar assault from the North.

— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Los Angeles contributed this report.


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