2016 was a memorable year no matter you slice it, but for the fact checkers at snopes.com nothing rivaled the impact of the truth-challenged 2016 presidential campaign and the explosion of “fake news.” Both loom large in our roundup of the top fact checks of the year, which, apart from a few obligatory Disney urban legends and a hard-to-kill celebrity death hoax, turned out to be a veritable textbook on faux journalism and political smear-mongering. What were people lying, exaggerating, and just plain wrong about in 2016? Read on …
10 – Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down to prevent him from testifying against Hillary Clinton
False – The unsolved murder of DNC voter outreach specialist Seth Rich during an apparent robbery attempt in July 2016 ballooned into a conspiracy theory to the effect that Hillary Clinton had ordered a “hit team” to assassinate him. Rich wasn’t the only alleged victim of an alleged murderous rampage on the part of the Democratic presidential nominee. Read the full report here.
9 – Philando Castile was wanted for armed robbery when he was killed by police officers
Mostly False – In the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, an African-American school food service worker whose death during a traffic stop in July was live-streamed by his girlfriend, a hyperpartisan news and opinion web site sought to blame the victim by claiming that Castile was an armed robbery suspect. Read the full report here.
8 – Coca-Cola has bought the rights to Dr Pepper, and will be discontinuing production of the latter soft drink
False – Dr Pepper fans were not amused by an April 2016 Facebook hoax claiming that after “141 years of quenching America’s thirst,” rights to the secret recipe popular soft drink had been sold to the Coca-Cola Company, whose evil plan included taking it off the market forever. Read the full report here.
7 – One of the winners who shared the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot succumbed within days to a cocaine overdose
False – Among the many fake news stories surrounding the record $1.5 billion Powerball lottery jackpot that was split three ways in January 2016 was a lurid tale about a supposed California winner who died of an overdose after blowing his entire share on cocaine and prostitutes. Read the full report here.
6 – The entire Disney movie collection will be available through Netflix starting in September 2016
Mostly False – There was good news for Disney fans in 2016, namely that Netflix struck a deal to be the sole streaming service for newly-released Disney films, but this was rapidly morphed into the exaggerated claim that every Disney movie ever made will be streamable on Netflix. Read the full report here.
5 – Kurt Cobain endorsed Donald Trump in 1993
False – Fans of the ’90s grunge-rock band Nirvana were left scratching their heads when a quote from lead singer and counterculture icon Kurt Cobain circulated in early August predicting the election of Donald Trump 23 years before it happened. Read the full report here.
4 – American flags were banned from display at the 2016 Democratic National Convention
False – Instead of focusing on the sharply contrasting and deeply consequential political agendas espoused at the national party conventions in July, some media outlets went to extraordinary lengths to reduce the entire campaign to who displayed the most American flags. Read the full report here.
3 – “Black Diamond Collection” Disney films on VHS are worth thousands of dollars
Mostly False – Thanks to the widespread misconception that VHS editions of classic Disney films are worth thousands of dollars apiece at auction, 2016 taught us all a valuable lesson, we hope, about the difference between the asking price and the selling price. Read the full report here.
2 – Actor Jaden Smith committed suicide in July 2016
False – A social media “news update” announcing that actor Will Smith’s 18-year-old son Jaden Smith committed suicide in July proved not only to be a tasteless hoax, but a scam as well, conning thousands of users into allowing an app to repost the false information on their Facebook pages. Read the full report here.
1 – Hillary Clinton defended an accused child rapist — and laughed about it
Mostly False – There’s no mudslinging like election-year mudslinging. Our most-read fact check of 2016 addressed a biased, error-ridden rehash of a 1975 trial in which the young Hillary Clinton was the court-appointed attorney for an accused rapist. We were left wondering whether many Americans even understand what a defense attorney’s job is. Read the full report here.
Though we can’t predict what will happen in 2017, it’s clear that the election has left us as politically divided as ever, and the hoped-for let-up in the volume of rumor-mongering and fake news has not come to pass. It promises to be a busy year. As always, stick with snopes.com for the straight-up facts.