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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.

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Questions swirl around whether Trump can vote for himself in the 2024 election

CLAIM: Former President Donald Trump won’t be able to vote for himself in the 2024 presidential election because he was convicted in his hush money trial.

THE FACTS: Trump, a Florida resident, will be able to vote in the election if he stays out of prison in New York, as Florida defers to other states’ disenfranchisement rules for residents convicted of out-of-state felonies. New York law only removes the right to vote for people convicted of felonies when they’re incarcerated — once they’re out of prison, their rights are automatically restored, even if they’re on parole.

After a New York jury on Thursday found Trump guilty of all 34 felony charges in his hush money trial, social media users claimed that the decision will prevent the former president from voting for himself in the upcoming election.

“The guy who ran his 2016 Campaign on ‘LOCK HER UP’ is about to be locked up,” reads one Instagram post. “Also worth noting that as a conflicted felon, Trump can no longer vote in his own home state for himself or anyone else.”

The post, which misspelled the word “convicted,” had received more than 18,900 likes as of Friday.

“Trump can’t legally vote for himself now!!!” reads one X post that had received approximately 9,200 likes and 5,800 shares as of Friday. “I love Karma! It’s a good day for America!”

But Trump’s ability to vote in the 2024 race will depend on his sentence.

That’s because Florida — in which Trump established residency while president in 2019 — defers to other states’ disenfranchisement laws when it comes to residents convicted of out-of-state felonies. In Trump’s case, New York law states that people convicted of felonies are not allowed to vote only when they’re incarcerated. Once out of prison, their rights are automatically restored, even if they’re on parole, per a 2021 law passed by the state’s Democratic legislature.

So as long as Trump isn’t sent to prison, he can vote for himself in Florida in November’s election. His sentencing date is July 11, four days before the opening of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where GOP leaders are expected to formally make him their nominee.

His conviction, and even imprisonment, would not bar Trump from continuing his pursuit of the White House. Rules for the convention adopted last year don’t include any specific provisions about what happens if its presumptive nominee is convicted of a crime.

Delegates could move to change the rules before formalizing Trump’s nomination, but there’s no evidence that a significant faction of the party would try to replace the former president on the GOP ticket. Trump commands loyalty across the GOP base, and the Republican National Committee is run by his loyalists, including his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair.

Trump was convicted on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through a hush money payment to a porn actor who said the two had sex. The former president is expected to appeal the verdict.

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Posts misrepresent New York judge’s instructions to jury in Trump hush money trial

CLAIM: New York Judge Juan M. Merchan told the jury in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial that they don’t need a unanimous verdict to convict Trump.

THE FACTS: Merchan said that to convict Trump the jury would have to find unanimously, on each of 34 felony counts, that he falsified business records and that he did so with the intent of concealing another crime — in this case, violating a state election law during his 2016 campaign. The judge said jurors could consider three different ways the law may have been broken and that they don’t have to be unanimous on this decision.

As jury deliberations began Wednesday in Trump’s trial, social media users spread false information about Merchan’s instructions to the seven men and five women who will determine the outcome in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

“How is this even a fair trial?” reads one Instagram post that had received more than 13,500 likes as of Thursday. “The judge just announced that the jury does not even have to be unanimous in their judgment to convict President Trump! This entire process was rigged from the start.”

An X post reads: “Judge Merchan has told the jury that they do NOT NEED unanimity to convict. They do not have to all agree on what occurred. 4 can agree on one crime, 4 on a different one, and the other 4 on another. He will treat 4-4-4 as a UNANIMOUS verdict.”

But these claims, which were echoed by Trump on Truth Social, distort Merchan’s instructions.

The judge told the jury that to convict Trump on any given charge, they will have to find unanimously — that is, all 12 jurors must agree — that the former president created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing a crime.

Prosecutors said the crime Trump committed or hid is a violation of a New York election law making it illegal for two or more conspirators “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.”

Merchan gave the jurors three possible “unlawful means” they can apply to Trump’s charges: falsifying other business records, breaking the Federal Election Campaign Act or submitting false information on a tax return.

For a conviction, each juror had to find that at least one of those three things happened, but they did not have to agree unanimously on which it was.

Trump was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree as part of a scheme to bury damaging stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign, particularly as his reputation was suffering at the time from comments he had made about women. He was convicted on all charges Thursday.

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‘Statue of Liberty’ image was created using Photoshop. It is not a structure made of ruins from the artist’s home

CLAIM: An image shows a sculpture resembling the Statue of Liberty, built by a Syrian artist out of the ruins of his house. “This is the freedom they brought us,” states a slogan associated with the image.

THE FACTS: The image is a digital photomontage by Tammam Azzam, a Syrian artist now based in Berlin. Azzam told The Associated Press that he created the image in 2012 using Photoshop to combine fragments of photographs showing destroyed buildings in Syria. He said it represents freedom sought by the Syrian people.

Social media posts are giving new life to yearsold claims that misrepresent the image using erroneous details about its origin and meaning.

“This was built by a Syrian artist from the ruins of his house,” reads one X post that included the image and had received approximately 31,000 likes and more than 10,200 shares as of Thursday. “With the slogan: ‘This is the freedom they brought us.’”

Others shared similar posts along with the Palestinian flag emoji, appearing to compare the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on Palestinians to the ongoing civil war in Syria. One such Facebook post had received more than 9,700 reactions and 3,600 shares.

But the image, titled “Statue of Liberty,” was created digitally and has nothing to do with the supposed slogan spreading online.

“I created the image using Photoshop by scanning and piecing together various fragments of photographs of destroyed buildings in Syria,” Azzam told the AP in an email. “Regarding the misrepresentation, it is unfortunate that the image has been falsely attributed to a specific narrative. It was not built from the ruins of any house, nor does it carry the slogan attributed to it.”

The photomontage “was intended to comment on the themes of freedom and oppression,” according to Azzam. He said he created it in 2012 “as a symbol of the freedom that the Syrian people have sought and continue to seek in a country that has been devastated by the regime’s response to their demonstrations.”

Azzam posted the image on his Facebook account as part of what he described as a “broader series” he worked on while living in Dubai. He wrote that it “was not printed or exhibited in a gallery or similar venue, though it has been widely shared and discussed online.”

Syria’s civil war, now in its 14th year, has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. It began with peaceful protests against the government of President Bashar Assad in March 2011, part of the Arab Spring popular uprisings that spread across the Middle East that year.

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Find AP Fact Checks here: https://apnews.com/APFactCheck

Melissa Goldin, The Associated Press



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