On Aug. 22, 2023, Real Raw News published an article claiming that U.S. Marine Corps arrested Erik Hooks, the deputy administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in connection with the agency's response to wildfires that ravaged parts of Maui the previous week.
The article said:
Military Arrests FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks
United States Marines on Saturday arrested Deputy Administrator of FEMA Erik Hooks on charges of treason, alleging in a 34-page indictment that Hooks and his boss, Deanne Criswell, ordered agents in Maui to deny fire victims food and water, to inhibit civilian relief efforts, to stop "by any means necessary" displaced persons from exiting fire-ravaged Lahaina, and to dispose of bodies as "discriminately as possible," a source in General Eric M. Smith's office told Real Raw News.
The arrest occurred Saturday night at Hooks' home in Arlington, Virginia, not far from FEMA's D.C. headquarters. The Marines cuffed Hooks while he was sleeping, showed him a military arrest warrant listing the charges against him, and carted him off to a holding center for processing.
At least one other website republished the article word for word. Meanwhile, social media posts across platforms such as X (formerly known as Twitter), Reddit, Facebook, and TikTok repeated the story about Hooks, citing Real Raw News as its source.
The story wasn't real. Real Raw News is a website that describes its output as being humorous or satirical in nature. The website's "About Us" page includes the following disclaimer:
Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.
No reputable news publications reported that Hooks or any other FEMA administrators had been arrested. Hypothetically, if that had been the case, the news would have generated headlines by credible news outlets, such as Reuters, The Associated Press, BBC, and so on.
As of the writing, multiple websites were spreading the rumor about Hooks without disclaimers saying it originated with a website that labels its content "satire."
We've previously fact-checked other false claims stemming from Real Raw News, including the rumor that 19,000 doctors had supposedly been indicted for "COVID-19 crimes."
The wildfires in Maui damaged thousands of buildings and killed more than 110 people, as of this writing. Other rumors about FEMA have circulated in their aftermath, including false claims that the agency could seize victims' property if they accept disaster aid and that marines supposedly attacked a "fleeing FEMA convoy," as fact-checked by The Associated Press.
For background, here is why we sometimes write about satire/humor.