Social media is not the most reliable place to get your news from. So when you see an outlandish, almost too-wild-to-be-true post or meme on your feed, a good rule to follow is to not react to it at first glance, to do a quick bit of research on what’s being said, and then come to your own conclusions on it, before sharing it yourself.
Unfortunately, so many memes provide confirmation bias for so many people. “Confirmation bias” comes from an inherent desire to believe something that matches your own line of thinking, fitting a frame of mind that you already have.
It’s not always false — a person who believes the science behind global climate change might quickly share an article about the extinction of polar bears as a result of that phenomenon, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to do so.
But many times, confirmation bias allows us to gloss over facts (preferring fictions instead, wrongly believing them to be true) in order to share something online that we agree with. Enter this meme, which is the subject of our fact check today, and which purports a number of Democratic lawmakers made “stupid” statements…
Meme shares “quotes” from Dem lawmakers
This meme, shown below, has been shared countless times on Facebook alone. In the post cited here, it’s been shared nearly 7,000 times alone since January 17. In all likelihood, the image has been shared many more times, too, as people may have saved the image then shared it elsewhere, on group pages or in their own profiles.
The meme purportedly shares the words of four Democratic lawmakers — Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and President Joe Biden.
At first look, a person who disagrees with these lawmakers’ views might read this meme and be disgusted. They may even feel compelled to share the meme themselves, to highlight to their friends why they have the political views they hold — particularly in light of what these Democrats have “said.”
Unfortunately, the meme itself is full of glaring falsehoods. Let’s inspect what’s being said here…
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The Representative’s words
The meme claims that Jackson Lee said the following: “Homicide is the leading cause of murder.”
This redundancy from Jackson Lee, or from any lawmaker really, could be chalked up to a misstatement — to err is to human, after all, and it’s possible the lawmaker could have gotten mixed up while she was speaking.
However, the words have never been spoken by Jackson Lee, ever, according to a Google search of her name and the “quoted” statement, and according to a search of the congressional record. There’s simply no evidence to suggest she has ever said those words — and indeed, the web search itself pulls up a number of other fact-checks that have debunked claims of her having ever said them.
Strike one for the meme, so far.
Then there’s the allegation from the meme that Ocasio-Cortez said the following: “Owning guns is not a right. If it were a right, it would be in the Constitution.”
The claim that the congresswoman said those words has been made in the past, as is demonstrated in this Facebook post from 2019, in which an image shares the same wording but sarcastically adds that Ocasio-Cortez was “brilliant” for having said them.
But once again, there’s no evidence that she ever did so.
Doing another Google search of the words AOC purportedly said shows that she didn’t, in fact, say those words. There’s no published news article that states she made the comment, and most of the search results, just like with Jackson Lee, showcase that this is a debunked quote that she has never said. And once more, the congressional record doesn’t contain the phrase (nor even the first half of the phrase) she reportedly uttered.
Warren’s statement on abortion
Warren, the lone senator on the list within the meme shared above, is a proud pro-choice Democrat. She has even gone on record to say that Congress should pass legislation to limit how states can restrict abortions on the local level.
But what about the statement “cited” in the meme” Is it true that Warren compared abortion to removing one’s tonsils?
I lived in an America where abortions were illegal. If you had the means, you still had access to safe abortions. It was the most marginalized and vulnerable people who did not. We can never go back to that time. #7in10ForRoe pic.twitter.com/BYQeTFLKb8
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 23, 2020
Not exactly. Warren made mention of the two procedures in the same sentence within a TIME magazine opinion piece a couple of years back. But the quote cited in the meme is an exaggeration of what she was trying to say in that op-ed.
On the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I think about what has changed since abortions became legal. Our health care system has pretty much dealt with the safety issue: thanks to Roe v. Wade, abortion is now safer than getting your tonsils out. A lot of women are alive today because of Roe.
That’s a far cry from what the meme purported she had said, that abortion and removal of tonsils are “no different” from one another. Clearly, Warren was talking about how legalizing abortion, in a 1973 Supreme Court decision, made the once-illegal practice (which was still happening to a considerable degree, even in states that forbade it) much safer.
Joe Biden and “constitutional rights”
The meme also makes mention of comments allegedly made by President Biden. “No ordinary American cares about Constitutional rights,” the image suggests he has said.
Once again, he didn’t ever say these words.
This claim about Biden has been online since at least 2013. It has similarly been debunked since that time.
Simply put, Biden never said those words, even though the image above said he did. Indeed, right-leaning websites that have claimed he said those words before appear to have since deleted their content.
What’s bizarre about the quote that the meme chose to use is that there are plenty of examples available of Biden making gaffes or messing up while speaking (again, these can be attributed to normal human error, or to the fact that Biden himself has a speech impediment). Choosing a faked quote from Biden just highlights how error-ridden this meme truly is.
The meme shown above is, without a doubt, full of quotes from prominent lawmakers that, if true, would reasonably cause concern, and which might, as the image suggests, cause some to call those individuals “stupid.”
But the quotes are all false — only one comes close to even being remotely close to what was actually said, and in that instance, it was a gross exaggeration of what was actually stated by the person involved.
As an interesting aside, the meme itself features Sam Elliott, in the role of the cowboy that he played in the film “The Big Lebowski.” Elliott himself did a voiceover for a commercial in last year’s presidential election — in support of Joe Biden.
The lesson here? Memes shared on your social media feeds that seem outrageous and outlandish require us to have a more skeptical eye before sharing them. An image like the one above, being shared hundreds of thousands of times, perpetuates myths about these lawmakers that are untrue.