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:
- ‘18 Reasons I Won’t Be Getting a COVID Vaccine’ Post Filled With Reckless Falsehoods
A blog post riddled with misinformation is effectively a "Now That's What I Call Music" style anthology of debunked anti-vaccine and COVID-19 denial claims.
- Dan Stock’s Speech to Mt. Vernon School Board Is Not Scientifically Credible
You would be hard pressed to find a single sentence in Dr. Stock's speech on "the futility of mask mandates and COVID-19 protocols" that is not misleading or explicitly false.
- About That Frank Shallenberger ‘Informed Vaccine Consent’ Post
A post authored by a doctor that promotes the dubious "ozone therapy" falsely argues the coronavirus pandemic is over.
- The ‘Occam’s Razor Argument’ Has Not Shifted in Favor of a COVID Lab Leak
Proponents of the "COVID lab leak" theory that COVID-19 originated as a result of work performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology keep repeating the same misinformation.
- Did Controversial AZT Treatment Kill More Patients than AIDS in ’80s, ’90s?
Commonly called AZT, azidothymidine was originally produced to treat cancer two decades prior to the HIV epidemic.
- Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan, and the Nobel Prize Parable
A popular tale claims that an act of kindness greatly impacted the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy.
- Was Thanksgiving Originally a Celebration of the Massacre of a Native American Tribe?
The Pequot massacre of 1637 resulted in the deaths of several hundred indigenous people.
- Fact Check: Ellie Kemper, the KKK, and the ‘Veiled Prophet Ball’
The actor’s ties to a controversial St. Louis debutante ball were unearthed in a 1999 photograph.
- Are These Rumors about Daunte Wright's Criminal Record True?
We determined the legitimacy of accusations against the 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a white suburban Minneapolis police officer.
Most Read News Stories of 2021
Ranked by popularity.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- ‘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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- No, Trump Did Not Wear His Pants Backwards at Rally
You asked, so we watched the 90-minute speech.
- 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.
- ‘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.
- Is a Testicular Blow Exponentially More Painful Than Childbirth?
There are no real winners in this contest.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.'
- Do COVID-19 Vaccines Make You Infertile?
Here are the facts behind claims of impotency, placenta issues, and swollen testicles.
- Does This Chart Show When COVID-19 Variants Will Be ‘Released’?
If credible scientists faced an uphill challenge to try to predict COVID-19 mutations, it was unlikely this unsourced meme did it first.
- What the ‘Choosing Your COVID-19 Vaccine’ Meme Gets Wrong
A viral image makes a range of claims about vaccine manufacturers to try to discourage people from getting shots. We fact-checked each of them.
- Does Ivermectin Cause Sterility in Men?
One study purportedly found that 85% of men who were given the anti-parasitic were sterile following the research period.
- Did 45K People Die Within 3 Days of Getting COVID Vaccine?
Allegations were said to have come from a “government insider.”
- Did Breastfeeding Baby Die After Mother Received COVID-19 Vaccine Dose?
Health experts do recommend the vaccine be given to breastfeeding parents.
- ‘Pfizermectin’? Is Pfizer’s New Drug Just Ivermectin in Disguise?
"Protease inhibitors" are a class of antiviral drugs that have been used to treat HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and possibly COVID-19.
- Do Videos Show Magnets Sticking to People’s Arms After COVID-19 Vaccine?
A handful of viral clips attempted to further a conspiracy theory about the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Is ‘Luciferase’ the Name for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
A meme shared widely in the spring of 2021 showed a lack of scientific understanding and an absence of reasoning.
- No, There Weren’t More COVID-19 Vaccine Deaths Than COVID-19 Deaths
A vaccine adverse reaction tracking tool was misleadingly interpreted by junk news sites.
Supposed Presidential Faux Pas
Biden supposedly fell asleep on the job, fumbled quotes, or passed gas on the regular.
- Did Biden Fart During a Town Hall?
One more fart rumor and we may have to assign a reporter to the Biden butt beat. In October 2021, a video supposedly captured audio of the president farting during a town hall.
- Did Biden Fart in Front of the Duchess of Cornwall?
As they say, whoever spread the rumor was the one who laid the boomer.
- Did Biden ‘Fake’ Drive a Ford Truck?
A video claimed to show the U.S. President Joe Biden fake driving a Ford truck that was actually being controlled by a second steering wheel.
- Does Video Show Joe Biden Falling Asleep in Meeting with Israeli PM?
The "Sleepy Joe" nickname made a comeback thanks to a viral video.
- Did Bill Clinton Fall Asleep During Biden’s Inaugural Address?
On Jan. 20, 2021, former U.S. President Bill Clinton was reported to have dozed off during President Joe Biden's inaugural address.
- Is This Biden on a Movie Set Resembling the Oval Office?
A photograph claimed to show the U.S. President Joe Biden on a movie set designed to look like the Oval Office.
- Biden’s Teleprompter Did Not Say ‘Leave Now’ at End of Afghanistan Speech
A doctored picture was shared in the moments after U.S. President Joe Biden gave a speech on the Taliban's efforts to take over in Afghanistan.
- Did Biden Have a ‘Ron Burgundy’ Moment?
A misleading video clip of Biden saying "end of quote" was widely circulated on social media.
- Did Biden Call Putin ‘President Trump’ and then Correct Himself?
Was it a "Freudian slip," or an alleged example of Biden's declining cognitive ability? Social media users interpreted the gaffe differently.
- Did Biden Say ‘My Butt’s Been Wiped?’
The president appeared to be making a joke about how difficult it was to talk by the nearby helicopter. But what, exactly, did he say?
Most Obviously Photoshopped
One manipulated picture is worth a thousand words.
- Is Joshua Ladu the Tallest Man in the World at 9 feet 8?
In November 2021, an image was circulated on social media that supposedly showed a person who had just been named by the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the tallest man in the world.
- Is Bill Gates Transitioning from Man to Woman?
In May 2021, a video claimed to show Bill Gates with breast implants, or transitioning from a man to a woman.
- Is K-Y Krispy Kreme Lube a Genuine Product?
We searched through K-Y’s collection of lubricants on the company’s websites and among the doughnuts and other merchandise available on Krispy Kreme’s website.
- Does Photo Show Biden with Jeffrey Epstein?
An image supposedly showing U.S. President Joe Biden with (now deceased) convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was circulated online in December 2021 as the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, one of Epstein’s associates, got underway in New York.
- Viral Gas Pump Photo with Biden Sticker Was Digitally Altered
A nonpolitical moment was made both political and misleading with the use of digital editing software.
- No, Biden Did Not Grope Psaki During Job Interview
A demeaning doctored photo was shared in an apparent attempt to smear the White House press secretary and President Joe Biden.
- Does a Pic Show Pete Buttigieg Wearing a Breastfeeding Device?
Buttigieg has been feeding his twin babies with a bottle during paternity leave.
- Did This MiG Land on a Dam?
A video supposedly showing a fighter jet landing on a dam racked up more than 100,000 views in July 2021.
- Dr. Rachel Levine Bathing Suit Photo is Fake
Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health and one of the only openly transgender people to be serving in the federal government, is frequently the victim of transphobic and fat-phobic content on social media.
- Did Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Get New ‘Handmaid’ Uniforms?
In September 2021, the day after the country’s strictest abortion law went into effect in Texas, a photograph started circulated on social media that supposedly showed the new “Handmaid’s Tale” uniforms of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Most Believable Fake Vid
Digitally altered footage that almost fooled us at first watch.
- The Oprah Video with Marjorie Taylor Greene Is a Deepfake
In November 2021, TikTok user @andrejhepburn posted a video that appeared to show U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., in the crowd during a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” more than two decades earlier.
- Did This Squirrel’s Poop Land on Another Squirrel?
A video was said to show a squirrel defecating on an air conditioner, only for the feces to fly through the air and land on another nearby squirrel.
- TikTok Video of Dog Rescued from Train Tracks was Faked
The good news is that the dog is ok. The even better news is that neither the man nor the dog were ever in any danger, as the video was faked. It all involved some pretty slick digital editing. Here’s how we know.
- Briefcase Changes Color from Red to Green on TV, Explained
A TikTok channel posted a video of three purported “Matrix glitches.” The first clip supposedly showed a politician walking with a red briefcase that “inexplicably” changed to green after he passed a parked car.
- Pope Francis Disappears on Live TV, Explained
A video showed the pope go poof. Here's what happened.
The animal kingdom plus cell phone technology equaled numerous fact checks.
- Does This Photo Show a ‘Real-Life’ Spongebob and Patrick?
A photograph captured by a team of scientists aboard the deep-sea research vessel Okeanos Explorer showed a “real life” Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star.
- Gorillas Find Snake at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Viral Video
The videos were apparently first posted on TikTok, showing part of the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.
- Is the ‘Penis Snake’ a Real Animal?
While these pictures often make their way around the internet attached to names like “penis snake,” “floppy snake,” or “man-aconda,” this creature’s proper name is Atretochoana eiselti.
- Watch a Hummingbird Slap a Bee in Slow Motion
The fiery throated hummingbird beats its wings close to 100 times per second.
- Video Captures Moment Golden Retriever Fends Off Alaskan Brown Bear
The dog’s owner said he was changing his pet's name from “Pretty” to “Legend.”
- Does Video Show ‘Starfish with Buttcheeks’?
Is it funny? Yes. Is it true? That's another story.
- Was a Tiny Chameleon with Huge Genitals Discovered in Madagascar
A newly discovered, miniature chameleon may be the world's smallest adult male reptile. Evolutionarily speaking, not everything appears to have shrunk at the same rate, however.
- Was One of These Webs Spun by an LSD-Tripping Spider?
Like humans, the cognitive abilities of spiders appear to be impaired by drugs.
- Can Some Turtles Breathe Through Their Butts?
And you thought mouth breathers were weird.
- Does a Photo Show a Parasite That Replaced a Fish’s Tongue?
And you thought that canker sore was bad.
- Is This Hairy Frog Real?
In June 2021, a picture supposedly showing a “hairy frog” turned up in our inbox (where you can send us tips and questions), along with a question about whether or not this photo shows a real-world animal.
- Can Sheepshead Fish Bite People with Their ‘Human’ Teeth?
The so-called "demon fish" have a mouthful of molars and two incisors.
- Were ‘Rabid’ Squirrels Attacking People in Queens, New York?
In late December 2020, readers flagged news reports about “aggressive” squirrels attacking residents in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, New York, requiring one person to go to the emergency room.
Some of these claims didn’t pass the sniff test.
- Was the World’s Longest Human Poop 26 Feet Long?
The world record was supposedly set at a bowling alley.
- Yes, You Can Pay a Cat To Poop on an Ex’s Name This Valentine’s Day
It’s a “smear campaign" like no other.
- Do Manatees Control Their Buoyancy by Farting?
Manatees appear to have harnessed the energy-saving power of their manatoots.
- Did a Meteorologist Claim That Icicles Contain Poop?
A public service announcement warned viewers to avoid eating icicles in winter 2021.
- Does the Phrase ‘Blow Smoke Up Your Ass’ Come From ‘Tobacco Enemas’
Let's get one thing out of the way — tobacco enemas were totally a thing.
- Do Polar Bears Yell When They Poop?
If you repeat a joke over and over, it may eventually be considered an interesting "fact."
Deepest Rabbit Hole
Investigations into these rumors led us down some unusual paths.
- Did Obama Officials Pressure NBC to Replace Jay Leno?
A baseless conspiracy theory is circulating online alleging that Leno lost the gig because of his comments about Obama.
- The Mattress Firm Money Laundering Conspiracy Theory
At the heart of the conspiracy theory: Multiple brick-and-mortar Mattress Firm stores were sometimes situated in close proximity.
- Were the Cleveland Indians Named To Honor Baseball’s First Native American Player?
Louis Sockalexis was believed to be the first acknowledged Native American to play in the major leagues.
- Does Pic Show Healthcare Worker Who Treated COVID Patients for ‘573 Days’?
In August 2021, a viral photo showed a woman in medical scrubs who opposed vaccine mandates, claiming she had treated COVID-19 patients for "573 days" without suffering any harm.
- Dallas Justice Now: How an Apparent Hoax (Briefly) Inflamed America’s Racial Culture War
Right-wing commentators seized upon a "college pledge" sent to white residents of a wealthy Dallas neighborhood. But all was not as it seemed.
- Did a South African Woman Give Birth to 10 Babies at Once?
Gosiame Thamara Sithole made headlines around the world in June 2021.
- Did Fauci Spend Taxpayer Dollars on ‘Cruel and Unnecessary’ Tests on Beagles?
Allocated government funds for the experiments reportedly totaled more than $1.8 million.
- Why We Can’t Definitively Say TikTok Causes Tics
The claim is largely based on two observational reports published in peer-reviewed medical journals and not the results of a regimented scientific study. This suggests a correlation and one possible explanation, but it does not prove a causation.
- Did Michael Yeadon Say COVID-19 Vaccine Will Kill Recipients Within 2 Years?
The former pharmaceutical employee has spouted widely discredited conspiracy theories.
Can't Believe We Had To Check This
All because Twitter was wilding out.
- Should a Bottle Always Be Put on Tires When Parked?
We tracked down the origins of the rumor that was displayed in online a
- Did Greta Thunberg Disguise Herself as Pro-Trump Rioter?
If so, an uncredited meme would not likely be the first to report the discovery.
- Were Gorillas at Bronx Zoo Filmed Engaging in a Sex Act?
A NSFW video appeared to show two gorillas “going down” on each other.
- Yes, You Can Order Pre-Stained ‘Wet Pants Denim’
Whether one should is another question entirely.
- Did California Man Find Shrimp Tails in His Cereal Box?
The same person also shared photos that appeared to show various other contaminants in the same box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
- Are Goat and Sheep Feces Drinks Being Sold in China?
The idiom "pooh-pooh" is used to dismiss arguments, opinions, or rumors that are not worthy of consideration.
- No, Maricopa County Ballots Weren’t Destroyed in a Chicken Farm Fire
Conspiracy theories abounded during a partisan recount of Arizona's 2020 presidential election results.
- Does Drinking Apple Juice ‘Make Your PP Bigger’?
YouTube, dank memes, and years-old clickbait collided in June 2020 to foster the scientifically illiterate conclusion that drinking apple juice makes your penis bigger.
- Did FloraSpring Help a 65-Year-Old Man ‘Poop Out 42 Pounds’?
Online advertisements for the FloraSpring weight loss supplement led users to pictures and video of Dr. Steven Masley, and mentions of a "pooping habit."
- No, Biden Did Not Say Unvaccinated Americans ‘Will Be Put in Camps’
Conspiracy theorists seized upon a supposedly satirical article, and deployed it as inflammatory disinformation against the president.
- No, Joe Biden Did Not Lower the Age of Consent to 8
Fake screenshots of nonexistent CNN and NBC stories were the latest installment of a set of conspiracy theories completely detached from reality.
- Does Video Show Athletes Fainting Due to COVID-19 Vaccine?
A series of fear-mongering videos were circulated on social media with unsubstantiated and false claims.
- Did Doctors Recommend Genital COVID-19 Vaccination Injections for Men?
Social media users shared a pair of bizarre claims about the supposedly unique effects of COVID-19 vaccines on men.
- Did Delta Force Raid Biden’s Compound in Ukraine?
This rumor is little more than a conspiratorial game of Mad Libs.
- No, Don’t Use Ivermectin-Soaked Tampons as COVID-19 Prevention
Putting tampons soaked in a liquid solution that includes ivermectin into vaginas were said to be an effective and safe step to fight COVID-19.
Most Unexpectedly True
Checks notes — yep, that actually happened.
- Yes, the Same Actor Played Ralphie in ‘A Christmas Story’ and Ming Ming in ‘Elf’
The same actor — Peter Billingsley — played Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" and Ming Ming in "Elf."
- Is Betty White Older Than Sliced Bread?
The actor celebrated her 99th birthday on Jan. 17, 2021.
- Does Pic Show Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell with the Pope?
The photo in question was reportedly taken circa 2003.
- Could China’s Three Gorges Dam Slow Rotation of Earth?
Construction of the dam was rumored to also alter the length of days.
- Did Russian Scientists ‘Wake Up’ 40,000-Year-Old Worms?
After thawing, the two worms apparently began to move and eat.
- Did Helen Keller Fly a Plane?
It’s true. Disability rights advocate Helen Keller — who was blind and deaf — flew a four-engine Douglas Skymaster airplane over the Mediterranean Sea while traveling from Rome to Paris in 1946.
- Is This Sushi-Like Creature Real?
In an email to Snopes, aquarium spokesperson Akiko Tsuchihashi said that experts believe the specimen has been formally described by the scientific community.
- Is Dina Sanichar the ‘Real-Life Mowgli’?
Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” was famously turned into an animated adventure by Walt Disney Studios in 1967 and has since been remade and reimagined a number of times.
- Does Curious George ‘Get High’ on Ether in an Old Children’s Book?
In July 2021, a popular post on the internet forum Reddit highlighted what appeared to be a bizarre moment from the “Curious George” children’s books in which the titular monkey “gets high” on ether.
- Is Putting Hotel Luggage in the Bathtub Upon Arrival a Good Idea?
Online advertisements promised what appeared to be a handy travel tip.
- Was Boris Johnson’s Great-Grandfather a Well-Known Turkish Muslim?
The conservative U.K. prime minister is rumored to have an unusual family history.
- Does the National Park Service Own Gen. George Custer’s Jockstrap?
George Armstrong Custer is known for many things ... including his underwear.
Some claims were so bizarre that they’re uncategorizable.
- Why Do the Bidens Look Giant in Photo With Carters?
This photograph spurred jokes about dollhouses and ventriloquists.
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