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

By The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An online story falsely claimed two deputies were killed in Arkansas on their way to the Clinton Presidential Library to deliver a search warrant.

The story on the americacomefirst site alleged the deputies were investigators for Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and that as a result of their deaths, Gowdy was holed up in his office with protection from the U.S. Marshals Service. The piece also claimed Gowdy made a statement alleging a mole on one of his congressional committees leaked the deputies’ travel plans.

“This story is 100 percent false,” Amanda Gonzalez, Gowdy’s communications director, said in an email.

Rather than staying indoors on Capitol Hill, Gowdy has appeared live on the sets of national news shows in Washington and New York and is touring South Carolina this week to promote a book he wrote with fellow South Carolina lawmaker U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

None of the nearly 200 statements, press releases and interviews chronicled on Gowdy’s official U.S. House member website contains comments on the topic the false story claimed he addressed.

No restitution order against Obama

An online story falsely claims that the U.S. Supreme Court denied former President Barack Obama’s appeal of an alleged $400 million restitution order.

The Associated Press previously debunked a similar false story that claimed Obama has been ordered to pay the “restitution” to the United States for money supposedly lost in a transaction with “hard-liners” in Iran. That story said three judges at a West Texas Federal Appeals Court for the 33rd District ordered the payment. There is no such court, and an account on the Daily World Update satire site gave names for people who are not federal judges anywhere.

The website Conservative Nation has a story alleging that the case advanced to the highest court in the land and that Obama lost. It gives the fictitious lower court a slightly different name, the West Texas Federal Probate Court. It names yet another person who is not on the federal bench and quotes a fictitious opinion from him.

The federal government did make a $400 million payment in 2016 to help settle a claim involving military equipment that Iran paid for in the late 1970s. The equipment was never delivered because the Iranian government was overthrown and diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran ruptured. Under a 1981 agreement involving a commission at The Hague, the countries agreed to pay claims for property and assets held by the other. Iran paid more than $2.5 billion to U.S. businesses and citizens to resolve claims.

No jail in Canada for misusing gender pronoun

An online story falsely claims Canadians now can be jailed simply for using an incorrect gender pronoun.

The article posted to The Daily Signal website said a law enacted last year would lead to hate crime charges against people who use an incorrect pronoun to describe a transgender person.

In addition to race, religion and sexual orientation, bill C-16 added gender identity and gender expression as areas that can be grounds for discrimination under Canada’s Human Rights Act. It also amended the country’s criminal code to add protections for transgender people against hate speech.

But experts say just using an incorrect pronoun isn’t enough to qualify as criminal hate speech. “Absolutely not a chance,” says University of Toronto law professor Brenda Cossman. “There is no criminalization of the misuse of pronouns.”

Richard Moon, a University of Windsor professor who studies freedom of speech issues, says only speech that is “extreme in character” would qualify as criminal. He says the person uttering the words must be found to have “willfully promoted hatred.”

By The Associated Press

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