I almost never do this, but I gave into the temptation to fact check a post on social media. A friend had shared a message about the insurrection.
“They want you to forget about Jan. 6,” the post said. “Don’t.”
The very first comment mentioned Ray Epps, and I responded with a link to an August report in USA Today.
“Epps was in the nation’s capital that day to protest the 2020 election results, but video footage of Epps that weekend has been used by social media influencers to suggest he was working for the FBI, an accusation that has been debunked by the special House committee investigating the attack,” the newspaper reported. “Nevertheless, some social media users claim new evidence shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office and Epps were in contact before the attack.”
The article mentions a Facebook post from July 21.
“BREAKING,” it says. “Freedom of Information Act requests show a dozen phone calls between the cell phone of Ray Epps and the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the week before Jan. 6.”
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesperson, told the newspaper the claim was “complete fiction,” and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House Jan. 6 committee, said in a tweet it was “absolutely false” and “literally made up.”
USA Today says it found no evidence that any such phone calls took place.
“Based on our research, we rate False the claim that Freedom of Information requests show phone calls between Ray Epps and Nancy Pelosi’s office before the Jan. 6 attack,” the newspaper reported. “Pelosi’s spokesperson said no such exchange happened. Experts said that because Congress is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, it is unlikely phone records between Epps and Pelosi’s office could be obtained that way.”
The newspaper noted that the Jan. 6 committee had debunked the Epps conspiracy theory and that Epps himself had called the accusations “a farce.”
None of that mattered, of course, to the guy spreading conspiracy theories. He’s convinced people like me are just trying to hide the truth.
“They want everyone to forget that Nancy Pelosi ordered reduced security,” he wrote.
That’s an assertion Fox News host Sean Hannity made back in June. He claimed Donald Trump had authorized up to 20,000 National Guard troops before the attack on the Capitol, but Pelosi “rejected” the offer.
I posted a link to PolitiFact. “There is no record of Trump formally authorizing 20,000 National Guard troops prior to the Jan. 6 attack,” the website said. “There is also no record of Pelosi rejecting such an authorization — and experts said she would not have had the authority to do so as House speaker. We rate Hannity’s claim False.”
The conspiracy theorist, though, was just getting warmed up.
“They want everyone to forget that the Capitol doors were opened for the people by Capitol police,” he wrote. “They want everyone to forget that none of the people entering were armed. They want everyone to forget that the damage was minimal, because people had no interest in damaging stuff. …” He went on, even bringing up the previous summer, when demonstrators had taken to the streets to protest the all-too-frequent deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers.
In the end, I guess, people will believe what they want to believe.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” I wrote. “Fact checkers can be helpful in sorting the fake from the real.”
The man spreading lies was unmoved, countering that the job of “fact checkers” is to ensure that everything matches the narrative put forward by the left.
“Snopes and PolitiFact are great examples of that,” he wrote.
Some folks, it seems, are impervious to the truth. Our only real hope is that the people they trust will stop lying to them.
Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. This column is shared via Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to [email protected]