Fact Check: Much Of The 'What Is Happening?' Post Is NOT Happening: It's Either Old Or Fake News

Fact Check

  • by: Olivera Perkins

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Much Of The 'What Is Happening?' Post Is NOT Happening: It's Either Old Or Fake News Old/Fake News

Does the "What is Happening?" Instagram post offer some alarming news, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel resigning and also the unrelated matter of Italian officials interfering with the U.S. presidential elections? No, that's not true: Much of the post lacks context, such as including that Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not seek re-election as chancellor in 2021, or it repeats threadbare conspiracy theories about how the presidential race was supposedly tilted in President-elect Joe Biden's favor.

The claim appeared in an Instagram post (archived here) published on January 16, 2021, which states:

-Angela Merkel, PM of Germany, resigns

-Signed affidavits show that Italy interfered through Leonardo satellite in our election, majority of Italian government resigns

-Washington, DC has 25,000 troops stationed there, and a fence around the Capitol Building

What is happening?

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

In addition to getting Merkel's title wrong, the post doesn't include any information, such as that included in this October, 2018 BBC.com article, which reported that the chancellor said she "would not be seeking any political post after my term ends" in 2021. She is still chancellor, and will remain in that post until national elections in September 2021. When she made her announcement in 2018 that she would be stepping down at the end of her current term as chancellor, she also announced she would step down as head of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that December. A new head of the CDU, Armin Laschet, a Merkel loyalist, was elected on January 16, 2021, with his election as party head making him a possible successor to Merkel as chancellor. But until national elections in September 2021, Angela Merkel is chancellor of Germany.

The second point in the Instagram post recycles a conspiracy theory about Italian officials helping to steal the election for President-elect Joe Biden. A Lead Stories Fact Check, which you can read here, explains why such an election conspiracy is baseless. The inaccuracies in the Instagram post revolve around how a board member of Leonardo SPA, an Italian aerospace defense contractor, purportedly conspired with an alleged Italian foreign service officer to throw the election in favor of Biden. The Lead Stories debunk states:

There's no evidence to support the international conspiracy theory that, among other claims, recycles debunked claims that software was used to flip votes in favor of Joe Biden. Almost all votes in the 2020 election were on paper ballots or cast on machines that produce a paper audit trail, making it illogical that software could switch vote tallies without detection


The third point in the Instagram post is based in fact, but lacks context about why there is a need for troops to be in the nation's capital. Several news organizations including CNN and the Defense Department's own Stars and Stripes have reported that the Pentagon has authorized up to 25,000 National Guard members to be assigned to Washington, D.C., for Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2021. The beefed-up military presence is to prevent a repeat of a mob storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying Biden's Electoral College win.

Updates:

  • 2021-01-19T01:22:03Z 2021-01-19T01:22:03Z
    This story has been updated with expanded information on Angela Merkel's ongoing term as German chancellor.

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  Olivera Perkins

Olivera Perkins is a veteran journalist and fact checker at Lead Stories, who has covered a variety of beats, including labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

Read more about or contact Olivera Perkins

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