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Snopes Sets The Record Straight On Election, COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation

A nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine on December 14, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Mark Lennihan/Pool/Getty Images)
A nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine on December 14, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Mark Lennihan/Pool/Getty Images)

Even though President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is just weeks away, the conspiracy theories keep flying about the integrity of the election. Many involve Dominion Voting Systems, the American company that provided election equipment to dozens of states.

One of this week’s big debunked rumors on the fact-checking website Snopes is the false claim that the AT&T building in Nashville was targeted with what officials say was a suicide bomb because AT&T was auditing Dominion voting machines.

Such rumors have sent one Dominion security expert into hiding after receiving death threats against him and his family. The voting system company is now threatening legal action, and some conservative media outlets are starting to respond. Fox News and Newsmax had their anchors read statements on air, distancing themselves from — or even apologizing for — false claims of widespread voter fraud.

At the same time, misinformation is heating up about the COVID-19 vaccine as the rollout continues in the U.S.

All of these rumors are keeping Snopes researcher Camille Knox busy. Her job involves debunking the hearsay that litters the internet. She explains how she and the Snopes team were able to dissect fact from fiction on the following claims.

On the false claims about a nurse in Alabama who allegedly died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and a nurse in Tennessee who allegedly fainted from the vaccine

"The Alabama nurse, the claim was basically that the woman had died after receiving a vaccination for COVID-19 and that this happened in December of this year. We checked into that one and found out that there were no deaths related to the vaccine, which became available on Dec. 14. We reached out to the state of Alabama, to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and they gave us a statement that said that all these Facebook posts and rumors were indeed false, and no one who received the COVID-19 vaccine in Alabama had passed away.

"And it seems like in Tennessee, our claim was partially true, partially false. So we called this one a mostly false claim. The true part of the claim was that a Tennessee nurse whose name was Tiffany Dover had passed out after receiving the vaccine shot. The false part of it was that Dover did say that she fainted as a result of pain from the hypodermic needle shot, but not from the actual vaccine. Apparently, it turns out that she has a longstanding medical condition, so this is a case of people trying to link two things together that were actually unrelated."

On the incorrect claim that Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna's mRNA vaccines will alter human DNA

"There was sort of this copy and pasted text that was spreading across social media and some of the fringe conspiracy sites basically said that the COVID vaccine should be avoided at all costs. And it basically described a message from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s an anti-vaccine crusader as we would say.

"It’s a baseless assertion at the end of the day that basically says that mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna can alter your human DNA, and there’s no possible way for that to happen. We ended up getting a statement from Robert Kennedy Jr. as well, basically saying that he never made those assertions at all."

On the false information that AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine containing aborted fetal cells

"These can be tough when there’s videos involved because people sort of look at these and think 'that's got to be true, it’s on video,' but this one’s inaccurate. It’s true that the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is created by growing a modified virus in cells that are derived from what we understand to be embryonic kidney tissue. But the vaccine does not contain that cellular material. So it’s actually false."

On the false claim that AT&T had a contract to conduct an audit of Dominion in Nashville just before the Christmas car explosion

"This claim we found out to be was false, that AT&T allegedly had this contract to conduct a forensic audit of Dominican voting systems in Nashville. The basis of the conspiracy theory was that the explosion was intended to destroy the machines before they were audited in order to cover up some sort of evidence of massive voter fraud.

"By reaching out to both AT&T and Dominion, they both have told us that there was no audit and there was nothing that involved Dominion having their systems being moved to Nashville. So all of this, you know, suggests that this was another conspiracy theory that was popping up in the wake of a tragedy."

On the false rumor regarding Biden's nephew and Dominion

"There was a theory that President-elect Joe Biden’s nephew somehow owned Dominion Voting Systems. And so this one popped up a few weeks ago. It sort of centers around one of the narratives in the election fraud conspiracy theory cycle that we’ve seen kind of pop up this year. This one basically tries to tie a few people together who are not related. It goes back to a meme that circulated on the internet that was tweeted out. And so there were screenshots that sort of combined two people’s biographies whose last names were Owens.

"Come to find out, President-elect Biden’s sister and his campaign manager, her last name is Owens. Her name’s Valerie Biden Owens. And so we found out Valerie and her husband do not have a child whose name is Stephen Owens, which is the name that’s been popping up as Biden’s nephew. We found out that this was yet another sort of oddly placed rumor that popped up to tie together the Biden family, Biden’s sister, and then Dominion voting systems. It’s false."

Ashley Locke produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

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