Fact Check: Trump Did NOT Issue "Executive Order 66" Deeming Church An Essential Business

Hoax Alert

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: Trump Did NOT Issue "Executive Order 66" Deeming Church An Essential Business Trolling

Did President Trump issue an order deeming church services an essential business? No, that's not true. The story was published by a liberal satire website that tries to mislead Trump supporters and Republicans into sharing made up stories that are clearly marked as satire when you actually click them. Articles from the site are frequently copied by foreign-run fake news websites. The people liking and sharing these stories are enriching foreign website operators or a liberal from Maine via the ad revenue generated with the content which is probably not what they expected or wanted.

The claim originally appeared in an article (archived here) where it was published by BustaTroll.org on April 11, 2020 under the title "Trump Issues Order Deeming Church An Essential Business". It opened:

America is a Christian nation and the most essential part of the lives of Americans is going to church. Without this, we are just a land of savages like other places that have rejected Christianity.

Just look at Nazi Germany and New Zealand. These places are not places we want to be like, but without God in our lives, we soon will be headed down that path.

Our President Donald Trump understands this more than anyone. That is why he has worked so hard on crafting his most recent Executive Order. It will allow churches to operate as the essential businesses that they are.

The story was published on a page with several satire disclaimers and appeared under the category "Satirical Powers of an Orange President". Indeed, if you check the Federal Register for a full list of all executive orders issued by President Trump in 2020 it is clear there is no "Executive Order 66".

That didn't stop a copycat site run on Tumblr from racking up over 786K interactions on Facebook with a copy of the headline of the fake story (which redirected to a foreign-run fake news website "happynewyear2020greetingscards.com" that is part of a network of sites run by a man from Pakistan).

trumpissuesorder.jpg

The site that originally published the story is part of the "America's Last Line of Defense" network of satire websites run by self-professed liberal troll Christopher Blair from Maine along with a loose confederation of friends and allies. Blair has been in a feud with fact checking website Snopes for some time now and has also criticized other fact checkers in the past who labeled his work "fake news" instead of satire. In reaction to this he has recently rebranded all his active websites and Facebook pages so they carry extremely visible disclaimers everywhere.

Every site in the network has an about page that reads (in part):

About Satire
Before you complain and decide satire is synonymous with "comedy":

sat·ire
ˈsaˌtī(ə)r
noun
The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

Everything on this website is fiction. It is not a lie and it is not fake news because it is not real. If you believe that it is real, you should have your head examined. Any similarities between this site's pure fantasy and actual people, places, and events are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and satirical. See above if you're still having an issue with that satire thing.

Articles from Blair's sites frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites who often omit the satire disclaimer and any other hints the stories are fake. Blair has tried to get these sites shut down in the past but new ones keep cropping up.

If you see one of his stories on a site that does not contain a satire disclaimer, assume it is fake news. If you do see the satire disclaimer it is of course also fake news.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes bustatroll.org as:

One in a network of sites that publish false stories and hoaxes that are often mistaken for real news, run by hoax perpetrator Christopher Blair.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.


  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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