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Sorting out the truth in politics

Online satire once again is mistaken for the truth

The statement

School children can earn higher grades by studying Islam under a new "nationwide Muslim outreach program" announced by President Barack Obama.

Bloggers, Dec. 7, in viral posts on the Internet

The ruling

Here's some of the text that usually accompanies the claim:

"At a press conference today, President Obama announced plans for the first ever federally funded Muslim outreach program. The program will be available nationwide for all elementary school students grade K-12 beginning February 1st, 2014. The program is designed to educate children about the fundamentals of the Muslim religion and Islamic belief.

"President Obama spoke with reporters to explain why it is so important that these outreach programs exist. 'The Muslim community deserves our full understanding and respect,' Obama said. 'We have killed millions of Muslims overseas since the September 11th attacks. These folks are not all bad. In fact, most of them are hard-working citizens just like you and me. I encourage every student in America to participate in your school's Muslim outreach program. Learn about the Muslim community, the beauty of the Sunnah and the magic of the Qur'an.' "

The item cited "35-year-old Paul Horner, a teacher at Starks Elementary School in Louisiana," who purportedly told MSNBC that he is "excited about the new program," because "if Becky has a D+ in math she can take a three week after-school class on the Qur'an and would then have an A in Math. That's a win-win for everyone!"

It closed by urging any parents of students who "would like to volunteer and teach the Muslim religion" to "call the Nationwide Muslim Youth Outreach hotline at (202) 863-8500."

This all sounded fishy to us, so we checked with the White House, which confirmed that no such press conference happened. Nor was there any such program.

We also rooted around the Internet and discovered that a portion of the text originated with an "article" in the National Report, a satire website, but it was substantially rewritten. Not only was the topic somewhat different, but the quote from "Horner" was added, among other things. (The website of Starks High School in Starks, La., — which includes students from K-12 — does not include any staff member by that name.)

This is only the latest example of satire passed off as truth on the Internet.

In addition, the phone number listed as being for the "Nationwide Muslim Youth Outreach hotline" was actually the phone number of the Republican National Committee. RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski confirmed that the RNC had nothing to do with the piece.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire.

Louis Jacobson, Times staff writer

Edited for print. For the full version, go to PolitiFact.com.

Online satire once again is mistaken for the truth 12/16/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 16, 2013 8:49pm]
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