Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact Florida: Sarah Palin's post about Paris accord uses 2011 photo of Florida House

It's clear that Sarah Palin hates the Paris climate agreement.

What's unclear is why a photo of Florida lawmakers was used to make her point in a viral post on Facebook against the deal.

"Don't be fooled! The Paris climate accord is a scam," stated the headline at the top of Palin's Facebook post Tuesday. (By Wednesday, Palin had deleted the post, which had been shared at least 8,000 times.)

"They pretend it's about fixing our environment," the post continued, "But it's really about stealing billions from the American people and giving it to foreign countries, governments and lobbyists!"

A photograph shows an unidentified group of mostly men cheering. The Facebook post does not identify the people in the photo.

But they are Florida House members at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

The Facebook meme, posted after President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, could leave the impression that the people in the photo are rejoicing over using the agreement to steal billions from Americans. That's not the case.

The photo actually shows a moment from the 2011 Florida legislative session. Five current and former officials who are in the photo told us Palin's post left them scratching their heads.

PolitiFact fact-checked Palin's photo as part of our effort to debunk fake news on Facebook. Our efforts to reach a spokesperson for Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, were unsuccessful.

The legislators said their joy had nothing to do with the Paris climate accord, which was signed years later, or climate change.

State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, directed us to search the Florida House website to find the real reason behind the cheers. The website showed the photo was taken by House photographer Mark Foley.

The caption for the photo states: "From the left, Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, signaled that session was coming to a close as members celebrate on the House floor, May 7, 2011."

Plakon recalled the back-and-forth maneuvering between the House and the Senate in the final hours of that session, which stretched into the early morning. "It was a famous night," he said.

The final hours of the 2011 legislative session were chaotic, according to a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau timeline. As hours passed, lawmakers played songs such as A Hard Day's Night and Help by the Beatles and The Final Countdown on the public speaker.

At 11:30 p.m. the House unanimously rejected a Senate bill related to rules for the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The chamber erupted into cheers and shouts of "it's us versus the Senate."

At 1 a.m., senators went home. At 2 a.m., the House passed a bill that included tax cuts and adjourned as Handel's Hallelujah chorus played on the public address system.

Minutes later, the senators had to return, looking tired. One member came in wearing no shoes, another with no socks and a third in jeans and a T-shirt.

The session ended at 3:35 a.m.

We were unable to confirm with House officials exactly what time Foley's photo was taken during the conclusion of the session. But some of the members recalled the feeling of the night.

"We were all clapping because it was finally finished," said former Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview.

She described the situation as "humorous" but said it was a bad choice for Palin to use the Florida House photo for a post about the climate accord years later.

"It's kind of bad taste to label Florida legislators as being involved in that, especially in 2011," she said. "Everybody and their brother has been tagging me since it published, it's kind of funny."

Many of the legislators got a chuckle about Palin's meme.

Plakon, a publisher of a website used by insurance claims professionals, quipped, "As a publisher, I object to the use of low-resolution graphics."

For the record, Burgin said she has no opinion on the climate accord. Weatherford declined to express his opinion. Plakon called the accord a "bad deal" and sided with Trump. Dorworth, who lost an election in 2012, said he didn't support the agreement and "most of the persons in that picture probably would not have supported the Paris climate accord either."

Jeff Clemens, a Democratic senator from Lake Worth who was in the House at the time, was the only lawmaker in the shot who supports the Paris agreement. "Of course I support the world coming together to solve serious problems. Who wouldn't?" he said.

As for Palin's post, the text and photo are incompatible. The pairing rates False.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/Florida

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