Daily Debunker: Gators in the White House

Featured on Snopes today: A Presidents' Day celebration of White House trivia, Trump's visit to the Daytona 500, and more miscaptioned "coronavirus" videos from China.

11 Articles
  • Published 17 February 2020
11 Articles

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As far as anyone knows, the young George Washington didn’t really chop down his father’s prized cherry tree or admit it later, saying, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.” The anecdote was first told in the sixth edition of Parson Weems’ “The Life of Washington,” published several years after the first U.S. president’s death. It was meant to illustrate the “Great Virtues” that made Washington such an admirable leader.

Today being Presidents Day, it’s an apt occasion to revisit such presidential apocrypha. Is it true, for example, that Washington had wooden teeth? A set of Washington’s dentures exhibited at Mount Vernon reveals components such as lead, human teeth, cow teeth, ivory, brass, and steel, with no wood to be found.

Is it true that JFK unwittingly proclaimed himself, in German, to be a jelly doughnut during his famous 1963 “Ich bin Berliner” address in Berlin? Linguists say it’s a myth.

Who started the tradition of the president pardoning a live turkey before Thanksgiving? Was it Abraham Lincoln? Harry Truman? When we looked into it, we found that the tradition is of much more recent origin than most Americans realize.

And what of the claim that alligators were once kept as White House pets? According to popular lore, an assortment of United States presidents from John Quincy Adams to Herbert Hoover shared space in the West Wing with giant reptiles. The evidence, however, is elusive.

Were Alligators Ever Kept as White House Pets?

According to popular lore, an assortment of United States presidents from John Quincy Adams to Herbert Hoover shared space in the West Wing with giant reptiles.

Unproven
What Is Presidents Day?

What are we celebrating on the holiday known as 'Presidents Day'? Is it really a holiday at all?

False
Did the California Legislature Cancel Presidents Day?

A routine review of content labeled satire.

Labeled Satire
Is This Air Force One During Trump’s Visit to Daytona 500?

A photograph of Air Force One at the Daytona 500 is real, but it wasn't taken in 2020.

Miscaptioned
Was a Suitcase Full of Dead Birds from China Seized at Dulles Airport?

A relatively mundane incident went viral due in part to rising fears about an outbreak of a new coronavirus.

Mixture
Does Video Show Guns, Violence in Aftermath of Coronavirus Outbreak in China?

Speculation does not equal evidence.

Miscaptioned
Data Shows How China Criminalized Muslim Faith

Taken as a whole, the information offers the fullest and most personal view yet into how Chinese officials decided who to put into and let out of detention camps, as part of a massive crackdown that has locked away more than a million ethnic minorities.

AP News
Former Star SS Fernandez Dies at 57; Blue Jays Hits Leader

Tony Fernández, a stylish shortstop who made five All-Star teams during his 17 seasons in the major leagues and helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series, died Feb. 16 after complications from a kidney disease.

AP News
Museum’s Rembrandt Knockoff Turns Out To Be the Real Thing

Thanks to modern technology and some expert detective work, a nearly 400-year-old painting that had long been attributed to an unknown artist in Rembrandt’s workshop has now been judged to have been a work of the Dutch master himself.

AP News
Virginia Lawmakers Reject Assault Weapon Ban

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's push to ban the sale of assault weapons failed after some of his fellow Democrats balked at the proposal.

AP News
Out-of-Context Photos Are a Powerful Low-Tech Form of Misinformation

Have some healthy skepticism when you encounter images online.

News