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It's Our Turn: A new low in fake news

Fake news — those horrible, blatant lies that go halfway around the world before the truth has the chance to put its pants on — has sunk to a new low.

Those spreading the misinformation are trying to give their message more validity by claiming their screeds have been thoroughly vetted by fact-checking sites, such as www.snopes.com.

Here's something that shouldn't come as a big surprise: They're lying through their keyboard.

I received an email last week with the title, "No wonder Obama hates Trump."

The sender proudly proclaimed that the "good news" he was imparting was "especially sweet" because it was all verified through Snopes, a fact-checking website.

The email claimed that President Trump ended former President Obama's "vacation scam" in which Obama was planning to use discretionary funds from the Office of Presidential Visits and Vacations. Obama, the email reported, was planning to use what would have been $2.1 billion in free vacations for him and up to 24 members of his family, plus staff and a dog sitter until the year 2036 — until Trump put a stop to it.

The email was chock-full of details of Trump's heroics: "Trump, who is always looking for ways to save money, was presented with a ledger that contained all of the Obama travel plans and expenses," the email said. "The ledger was found by one of the workers Trump hired from outside the typical White House staff. Trump immediately canceled the plans and recalled all Secret Service agents scheduled to protect the Obamas anywhere outside of the United States."

Not quite satisfied to leave it at that, the email added that the Obamas will be forced to repay the government for his vacations, all "692" of them, that weren't official state business, which the email said amounted to $214 million.

The email ended with that oh-so-familiar request: "Feel free to share this. Many Americans will appreciate."

Of course, I knew immediately that this was all a bunch of hooey. By the way, I've received similar baloney from the other major political party too — so no one has the market in fake news.

But this latest emailer was so cocksure of his "facts," I had to see what Snopes had to say. I thought maybe there was a tiny chance that Snopes may have written something even slightly ambiguous about the claims.

Nope. The email was 100 percent horse manure.

Here's Snopes' to-the-point response: "Of course, there is absolutely no truth to this story. President Obama did not steal $2.1 billion to fund family vacations until 2036, nor did President Trump end his 'vacation scam' or send Obama a bill to repay the money."

Another legitimate site, FactCheck.org, noted that the bogus claim originally came from a satirical publication, "America's Last Line of Defense." FactCheck.org pointed out that the "Office of Presidential Visits and Vacations" does not exist. Even some of the smaller "facts" were wildly off: Obama's vacations spanned all or part of 235 days, not 692.

The lesson here is please, as much as you may want to believe it, don't accept those "juicy" emails that are forwarded to you by a friend or relative as the truth. Take a tiny bit of time to verify the information on your own before you swallow the lies. It took me all of 30 seconds to prove that the email was as phony as a $3 bill.

The email could be satire. It could be mean-spirited lies. It could be wishful thinking. But don't accept it as truth and don't pass it on. Many Americans would appreciate that.

• • •

"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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