Independent Fact Checking

Fake News or Truthful Reporting?

A Review of 10 Factual Claims that Went Viral in 2020

Oftentimes it is difficult to determine what online factual claims are truthful or false.  A variety of fact checking sites have developed over the years to combat the spread of misinformation.  In February of 2020, the International Society for Technology in Education published a “Top 10 list of fact-and bias- checking sites” for teachers to use to help students check their facts.

Four of the more respected sites include the following:

    is an independent site owned by Snopes Media Group. Started in 1994, it is the oldest and largest fact checking site online. Every fact check is labeled with one of 14 ratings such as True, Mostly True, False, Mostly False, Mixture of truth and falsity, Correct Attribution, Misattributed, Miscaptioned, Unproven, Outdated, Satire, Scam, Legend and Lost Legend.

   is a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.  The organization monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by the president, top administration officials and candidates for federal office. The organization’s numerous fact checkers write articles about what is said by the aforementioned persons if they determine the statements made are false or misleading. is one of several organizations which partners with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network. It has published a guide on how to flag suspicious stories on Facebook and an alphabetical listing of websites that publish or have published bogus content.

   is a Pulitzer Prize winning website owned by the nonprofit Poynter Institute For Media Studies, which also owns the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.  The site uses a “Truth-O-Meter,” which rates factual statements as True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire, which is where a statement is not only inaccurate, but makes a ridiculous claim).

            The Washington Post Fact Checker is written by award-winning Post writer Glenn Kessler and three other Post journalists.  It has been a permanent feature of the Washington Post since 2011 and has received numerous awards for its articles.  It’s purpose is to “truth squad” the factual statements of political figures on issues of great importance.  It is not an opinion-checking operation and employs a “reasonable person” standard on reaching conclusions about the accuracy of a given factual statement.  The site labels each false statement as a one, two, three of four Pinocchio’s depending on the severity of the applicable omission, exaggeration or falsehood. The definitions for the Pinocchio’s may be found at


Below are 10 factual claims that went viral on social media in 2020 that were analyzed by See if you can correctly spot the fake news from the real news.

Claim No. 1:

            Joseph Buttigieg, the father of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, was a "Marxist professor" who "lauded" and "spoke fondly" of "The Communist Manifesto" written by         Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.  Washington Examiner (February 10, 2020) available at



            TRUE. See for analysis      and basis for rating.


Claim No. 2:

            A traveler from Beijing was caught at Dulles International Airport with a suitcase full of dead       birds that the person tried to disguise as pet food. The Daily Wire (Feb. 11, 2020) available at    at-virginia-airport



            A MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION: See  check/suitcase-dead-birds-seized/ for analysis and basis for rating.


Claim No. 3:

            Officials are warning that popping bubble wrap from China could expose one to coronavirus.      North Carolina Breaking News Facebook page (Feb. 10, 2020)



            SATIRE, although the article is not labeled as such.  The “About” block of the Facebook page        describes the contents of the page as being humorous and satirical in nature.  See for analysis and basis for            rating.



Claim No 4:

            Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was arrested when he was 16 years old for      killing several dogs. February, 2020 @Comrade Crow Twitter account at 7Ctwterm%5E1226182627020988418&       act-check%2Fbuttigieg-dogs-clipping%2F



            FALSE. See for analysis and             basis of rating.


Claim No. 5:

            Chinese officials are seeking approval to kill over 20,000 coronavirus patients  in an attempt to    contain the disease. Website AB-TC (Feb. 5, 2020) available at



            FALSE. See for        analysis and basis of rating.


Claim No. 6:

  , otherwise known as the "Obamacare" website, cost $5 billion.  @realDonaldTrump (Feb. 4, 2020) available at   



            FALSE. See for          analysis and basis for rating.


Claim No. 7:

            The Chinese government is building a hospital in 10 days to deal with the new coronavirus. New York Times (Feb. 3, 2020) available at   


            TRUE. See for analysis and             basis for rating.

Claim No 8:

            President Trump congratulated the wrong state for the Chiefs' 2020 Super Bowl win.      @realDonaldTrump (feb. 2, 2020) available at https://media-



            TRUE. See for analysis     and basis for rating.


Claim No. 9:

            U.S. Health experts predicted the new coronavirus could kill 65 million people. Business insider   as reported on Yahoo News (January 24, 2020) available at experts-issued-ominous-warning-170400102.html?guccounter=1


            FALSE. See for        analysis and basis for rating.


Claim No. 10:

            Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden doesn’t consider drunk driving a felony.       Washington Examiner (January 20, 2020) available at  a-felony


            CORRECT ATTRIBUTION. See    felony/ for analysis and basis for rating.

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