Fact-checking claims about COVID vaccines, Grant Wahl’s death in Qatar and more

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:

Article misrepresents CDC data, falsely links deaths to COVID vaccines

CLAIM: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly confirmed that at least 118,000 children and young adults have “died suddenly” in the U.S. since the COVID-19 vaccines rolled out.

THE FACTS: The CDC has confirmed no such thing. The claim misrepresents CDC data around excess deaths — the difference between the observed number of deaths and the expected number in a specific period.

A misleading article spreading widely online attempts to link recent child and young adult deaths in the U.S. to COVID-19 vaccines.

“CDC quietly confirms at least 118k Children & Young Adults have ‘Died Suddenly’ in the USA since the roll-out of the COVID Vaccines,” reads its headline. The article originally appeared in November on The Exposé, a website that has repeatedly spread COVID-19 misinformation. A screenshot of the article’s headline was shared in multiple Facebook and Instagram posts. 

— Associated Press writers Karen Phan in Los Angeles and Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.

COVID-19 and flu cases both rising, despite claims online

CLAIM: In a normal year, there is a lot of flu but no COVID-19, while during the pandemic there has been a lot of COVID-19 and no flu.

THE FACTS: While flu cases plummeted as COVID-19 cases soared early in the pandemic, coronavirus and flu cases are both on the rise globally, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports thousands of hospitalizations and deaths from the flu and a significant rise in COVID cases and deaths through the fall and early winter. The flu and the coronavirus are distinct viruses, contrary to claims that they are the same. 

— Associated Press writer Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report.

Posts mischaracterize congresswoman’s comments on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

CLAIM: Rep. Katie Porter said in a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee that pedophilia is an identity, not a crime.

THE FACTS: Porter’s comments from the committee’s Wednesday hearing on the rise of anti-LGBTQ violence were taken out of context. The California Democrat was agreeing with Human Rights Watch President Kelley Robinson, who spoke about online rhetoric painting LGBTQ people as “groomers” and “pedophiles.” Porter said that such rhetoric amounts to falsely “alleging that a person is criminal somehow and engaged in criminal acts merely because of their identity — their sexual orientation, their gender identity.”

Misleading posts about Porter’s appearance at the hearing spread widely on social media, distorting comments she made on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.

World Cup reporter’s fatal heart condition unrelated to COVID vaccine

CLAIM: Longtime sports journalist Grant Wahl, who died in Qatar last week, was killed by the COVID-19 vaccine.

THE FACTS: Wahl died of a ruptured blood vessel in his heart — an injury unrelated to any vaccine, his wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, confirmed to The Associated Press.

The COVID-19 vaccines have not been associated with the heart condition that killed Wahl, experts told the AP.

Wahl, 49, was in Doha to cover the World Cup when he fell ill. He tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for what he described at the time as “pressure and discomfort ” in his chest. But on Dec. 9, he collapsed during a soccer match between Argentina and the Netherlands, and died the following day. Wahl’s sudden decline caught the attention of vaccine skeptics on social media, who shared posts falsely tying his death to COVID-19 vaccination. 

— Associated Press writer Graph Massara in San Francisco contributed this report.

Maricopa County displays voter maps for both parties, contrary to claim

CLAIM: Election officials in Arizona’s Maricopa County displayed a map of Republican voters in the county at its central tabulation facility in Phoenix, but did not have a comparable Democrat voter map.

THE FACTS: Heat maps showing past Republican and Democrat voter turnout are both displayed in the Maricopa County Elections Department’s central tabulation facility, according to a spokesperson for the department and a photograph she provided to The Associated Press.

A Monday blog post asserted that Maricopa County displayed a heat map of “expected” GOP voters and that the elections department “did not have a similar Democrat heat map hanging on their wall.” Mark Finchem, a Republican who lost his bid for Arizona secretary of state in the midterm election, shared the false information on Twitter stating, “Maricopa’s Heat Map of GOP voters. No Heat Map of Independents. No Heat Map of Democrats. Just Republicans.” But that’s not correct. Maps showing both past Republican and Democrat voter turnout are displayed in a hallway at the county’s central tabulation facility in downtown Phoenix, Megan Gilbertson, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Elections Department, wrote in an email to the AP. They show in-person voter turnout in the 2020 general election. 

— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.

Read the full story: