2021 in Review: Highlights From

If this year taught us anything, it's this: A dire need remains for fact-based, explanatory journalism.

Published Dec 15, 2021

 (Angie Wimberly)
Image Via Angie Wimberly

This was supposed to be the year of defining a “new normal” — and, in our opinion, maybe even having a re-do.

No such luck. First, we saw a massive misinformation campaign to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Never before had we battled such a well-funded effort to try to erode Americans’ trust in the democratic process, nor had we seen so many extreme ideas go mainstream from fringe political groups. Heading into the year, we had a sophisticated operation to closely monitor obscure corners of the internet where voter-fraud conspiracies originated.

Yet nothing could have prepared us for Jan. 6, 2021. From cell phone footage supposedly showing Capitol police helping Trump supporters breach the federal building to the former president's comments and whereabouts during the attack, our newsroom scrambled to sort fact from fiction in real time — and in the months after the historic day.

That was all aside from Joe Biden's presidential inauguration, an effort by Democrats to impeach Trump (again), an ongoing civil rights movement to call attention to police brutality, and scaremongering rumors about the effects of COVID-19 vaccinations. Pseudoscientific arguments circulated widely to discredit scientists’ work to develop what remains the leading solution to the pandemic, and we were inundated with readers' questions about how the inoculations actually impact humans' immune systems.

Then, over the summer, we met the COVID-19 variant delta. She seems to be sticking around with company (omicron).

No matter the topic at the center of our reporting in 2021, however, we filled a dire need for tools to help grow people's media literacy. Behind every Snopes rating is fact-based, explanatory journalism that relies on thoroughly vetted sources and context that other media outlets may omit.

We thank you for your support, and we look forward to more debunking in 2022 — maybe, just maybe, it’ll be a bit more “normal” than the last.

'COVID', 'Biden' & 'Ivermectin' Among Top Search Terms

Snopes readers have a nose for news — and an unquenchable thirst for getting to the bottom of misinformation on the internet. In 2021, readers searched nearly 8 million unique terms on the Snopes website, the leading among them being some iteration of “COVID-19” and some form of related “vaccines,” followed by “Biden,” “Fauci,” and “Trump.”

Snopes' Investigative Reporting

In a year rife with misinformation, the Snopes team went deep to get to the bottom of some of the internet’s most contested content. Among such stories published in 2021 were:

Most Read News Stories of 2021

Ranked by popularity.

  1. Background Check: Investigating George Floyd’s Criminal Record
    The question of past arrests often surfaces among people who want to rationalize police officers' actions when Black men are killed in custody.
  2. What’s True and False About Kyle Rittenhouse’s Alleged Victims
    ​​Fans of the teenager launched an online campaign to smear the reputations of his victims.
  3. Did Bonne Maman Co. Shelter People During the Holocaust?
    As the story went, a woman reportedly told a grocery shopper that she always buys the Bonne Maman brand of preserves because she was a holocaust survivor, and that the founders of the company had protected her family during World War II.
  4. ‘National Rape Day’ Warnings Circulate on TikTok
    Whether you call it a joke, prank, troll campaign or a hoax, there is no "National Rape Day" that provides legal immunity for sexual assault.
  5. Geert Vanden Bossche Stokes Fear of COVID-19 Vaccine To Promote His Own Flawed ‘Solution’
    Anti-vaccine activists are promoting a veterinarian's claim that the only way to prevent a future COVID-19 vaccination-related calamity is through a product he claims to have invented.
  6. Amy Schumer Trucker Photo, Explained
    In June 2021, comedian Amy Schumer became a trending topic on Twitter after “Celina 52 Truck Stop” posted a photograph of a new “contest winner” who strongly resembled the actress.

    Image via Facebook / Celina 52 Truck Stop
  7. Farmer’s Almanac Predicts ‘Season of Shivers’
    First published in 1792 when former U.S. President George Washington was in office, the reference guide is America’s oldest, continuously published periodical.
  8. Watch ‘Space Mountain with the Lights On’ at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
    "It's more scary with the lights on," read the TikTok comment with the most likes.

Most Viewed Fact Checks of 2021

Ranked from highest number of views.

  1. Did Biden Poop His Pants in Rome?
    Another president, another pants pooping rumor. This time around, U.S. President Joe Biden was said to have pooped his pants during a meeting with Pope Francis. 
  2. No, Trump Did Not Wear His Pants Backwards at Rally
    You asked, so we watched the 90-minute speech.
  3. Does Putting a Ziplock Bag Over a Car Mirror Have a Legitimate Purpose?
    Online advertisements promised what appeared to be a handy trick for drivers involving plastic Ziplock bags.

  4. Was Dr. Phil’s Divorce Settlement ‘Finally Revealed’ as $1M?
    An online advertisement that featured a picture of the famous therapist and his wife claimed to lead to details on a divorce settlement.
  5. Is a Testicular Blow Exponentially More Painful Than Childbirth?
    There are no real winners in this contest.
  6. Did Nike Partner with Lil Nas X on ‘Satan Shoes’ Containing Human Blood?
    The devil is always in the details. Although the shoes are Nikes, a Nike spokesperson told us the company has nothing to do with the creation or sale of the "Satan shoes."
  7. Did Rush Limbaugh’s ‘AIDS Update’ Mock the Deaths of Gay People?
    The radio host would later say he regretted the segment as it made fun of people who were dying excruciating deaths.
  8. Should an Empty Toilet Paper Roll or Red Cup Be Placed Under the Toilet Seat at Night?
    Online advertisements promised what appeared to be a handy bathroom trick. 
  9. Did Man at Capitol Riot Die After Accidentally Tasing Himself?
    Five persons died in conjunction with the Capitol riot, but some reports surrounding their deaths weren’t entirely accurate. 
  10. Did a ‘Convicted Terrorist’ Sit on the Board of a BLM Funding Body?
    The past crimes of Susan Rosenberg reemerged in the summer of 2020, amid a new wave of protests over racial injustice and police brutality.

2021 in Fact Checks: Snopes' Staff Picks & Standouts

All of these pages were published in 2021.

Best of: 'I Did My Own Research'
Usually code for 'I cherry-picked vaccine stats to confirm what I already believe.'

Supposed Presidential Faux Pas
Biden supposedly fell asleep on the job, fumbled quotes, or passed gas on the regular.
Most Obviously Photoshopped
One manipulated picture is worth a thousand words.
Most Believable Fake Vid
Digitally altered footage that almost fooled us at first watch.
Craziest Critter
The animal kingdom plus cell phone technology equaled numerous fact checks.
Bathroom Readers
Some of these claims didn’t pass the sniff test.
Deepest Rabbit Hole
Investigations into these rumors led us down some unusual paths.
Can't Believe We Had To Check This
All because Twitter was wilding out.
Most Unexpectedly True
Checks notes — yep, that actually happened.

Image via Bull Runnings

Honorable Mention
Some claims were so bizarre that they’re uncategorizable.

Image via Carter Center / Twitter

Want something fact checked in 2022? Submit your misinformation leads and questions to Snopes, subscribe to our newsletters, and support us financially by becoming a member or making a direct contribution.

Madison Dapcevich is a former writer for Snopes.

Jessica Lee is Snopes' Senior Assignments Editor with expertise in investigative storytelling, media literacy advocacy and digital audience engagement.

Read More

a Member

Your membership is the foundation of our sustainability and resilience.


Ad-Free Browsing on
Members-Only Newsletter
Cancel Anytime