PolitiFact's Top 5 for June 2015

The Confederate battle flag flies at a memorial in front of the South Carolina state House. (AP)
The Confederate battle flag flies at a memorial in front of the South Carolina state House. (AP)

Last month, we fact-checked statements about the Confederate flag debate in South Carolina, Caitlyn Jenner, and Hillary Clinton. Here’s a summary of our most popular reports for the month of June, counting down to the most popular.

5. Was an Iraq veteran runnerup to Caitlyn Jenner for ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award?

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair introduced the world to Caitlyn Jenner. On the same day, ESPN announced it would honor Jenner, the transgender gold medal-winning Olympian formerly known as Bruce, with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

ESPN’s decision to honor Jenner with the award didn’t sit well with many people, who thought there were more deserving winners. One Facebook meme wrongly claimed the runnerup was an Iraq war veteran who lost his arm and leg defending the United States. The meme was shared over 100,000 times.

Though the veteran in the meme is a real person, this runnerup story was bogus. There is no such thing as a runnerup for the award, an ESPN spokesman said. PunditFact rated this claim Pants on Fire.

4. Eugene Robinson: The Confederate flag wasn’t flown at South Carolina statehouse until 1961.

The Confederate flag flying outside of South Carolina’s statehouse sparked debate across the nation following the deadly shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Some argued the flag is a symbol for shared Southern heritage. Others, such as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, see the flag as a symbol for racial oppression and prejudice.

Robinson said that 1961 was the year the flag was first flown at the Columbia statehouse in Columbia. "It was flown there a symbol of massive resistance to racial desegregation," he said on June 21.

Though we found Robinson’s claim about the date was correct, its purpose as a deliberate symbol of a "resistance to racial desegregation" is not completely clear.  Experts and research have, however, found a circumstantial link between the spread of the flag and the racial divisions of the 1950s and 1960s. PunditFact rated Robinson’s claim Mostly True.
 

3. Did Hillary Clinton donate "every cent she’s ever earned from speaking fees to charity?"

According to a meme by a liberal group, Occupy Democrats, she did.

The meme’s claim was a misreading of Clinton’s comments in 2014 when, speaking at a particular event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Clinton noted that "all of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work."

It is true that her speaking fee from UNLV was donated to the Clinton Foundation. However, in Clinton’s 2015 financial disclosure form published by the New York Times there are 51 speeches, amounting to $11 million, for which Clinton was compensated directly from a variety of companies. PunditFact rated the claim False.

2. Barack Obama: "This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency."

After the killings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, President Barack Obama said that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries, nor does it happen with the same frequency as it does in the United States.

Upon reviewing data collected by researchers specializing in mass-shooting incidents between the period 2000 and 2014, it is clear that this type of mass violence does happen elsewhere, and not in trivial numbers. In at least three of the countries included, there was evidence that the rate of killings in mass-shooting events occurred at a higher per-capita rate than the United States. We rated the claim Mostly False.

1. Gavin McInnes: "The Civil War wasn’t about slavery"

According to a tweet on June 23 by Gavin McInnes, a frequent Fox News guest, the Confederate flag should continue to fly because "The Civil War wasn’t about slavery."

Research and experts quickly disproved McInnes claim, referring to slavery as the fundamental reason behind the South’s secession, and ultimately, the outbreak of the Civil War. PunditFact rated this claim Pants on Fire.