Fact Check: Michigan Governor Did NOT Violate State's Social Distancing Order; TV Station Used File Footage

Fact Check

  • by: Ryan Cooper
Fact Check: Michigan Governor Did NOT Violate State's Social Distancing Order; TV Station Used File Footage Old Photo

Did Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer violate the state's social distancing order at the same time she was signing the stay-at-home orders? No, that's not true: A TV news report used file footage from January 2019 of a completely different bill signing during a story about the new order.

The claim has appeared in multiple posts, including one (archived here) published on Facebook by James Lo Tempio on April 7, 2020. It opened:

Shes signing this order as there's 9 other people behind her standing shoulder to shoulder. And who knows how many camera men are on the opposite side... Hmph should they also get that $1000 fine? Or na?

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

The post is being shared to suggest the Michigan governor was being hypocritical and practicing the old adage, "Do as I say, not as I do."

However, the photo was more than a year old, as FactCheck.org first reported. It did not show Whitmer signing the actual emergency order on April 2, 2020, which called for a fine up to $1,000 for people who violate the state's social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had shared the falsehood on Twitter, prompting Whitmer to issue her own response:

Cruz later deleted the tweet and offered this explanation:

The station at the center of this imbroglio, WXYZ, published an explanation on its website, but it did not explicitly offer an apology:

We recognize the decision to use the video has caused confusion, and WXYZ has internally addressed what allowed it to happen in the first place.

Setting the record straight on viral Whitmer photo

(WXYZ) - A viral photo being shared across social media of Gov. Whitmer, purportedly showing her not following her recent executive order on social distancing, features a bill signing that is more than a year old and is in no way related to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Read more about or contact Ryan Cooper

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