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Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner, factually erred recently in saluting what he described as President Donald Trump’s removal of a Muslim federal judge who had practiced Sharia law.
The inaccurate post on the Stephenville Republican’s campaign Facebook page remained in place when we peeked today though Miller’s introduction of the false account had evidently been amended to say: "Well it looks like I may have been duped. This may be fake news, but I still think Sharia law has no place in the United States of America."
By phone, Todd Smith, Miller’s campaign consultant, told us he put up the original Miller post touting Trump’s action against the described judge after a supporter sent the tale his way.
"It looked interesting," Smith said, going on to suggest that among some 55,000 Miller posts on the Facebook page over four years, perhaps five turned out to lack a factual basis.
"That’s a pretty good track record," Smith said. "It’s not our intent to put out misinformation."
In 2016, we found instances of Miller using social media to share inaccurate information. At the time, Miller had touted on Facebook what we found to be a manipulated photograph of an actor wearing a pro-flag shirt.
Miller’s campaign Facebook page, Smith noted, has drawn more than 636,000 "likes."
Miller’s revised message continues to point to a Nov. 22, 2017, post by a seemingly pro-Trump group stating that Trump had removed a Muslim federal judge for trying to implement Sharia law. The Miller-highlighted post opens: "22nd Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Hansam al Alallawalahi-Smith made headlines this week when he overturned a ruling out of Dearborn, Michigan. The ruling allowed two critical and violent tenets of Sharia Law to be practiced here in the United States."
Similarly, FactCheck.org, based at the University of Pennslvania, found the claim false. Its review also pointed to a disclaimer on the As American As Apple Pie site. The disclaimer says: "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."
The post shared by Miller further says, citing As American As Apple Pie, that "Trump used an old precedent and an executive order to remove al Allalawaralahali-Smith from the bench, citing gross negligence of his duties and wanton disregard for the United States Constitution."
Not so, the Houston Chronicle noted in a news story posted Nov. 27, 2017, also going on to say that the pro-Trump post had previously been debunked. As Snopes.com previously said, the Chronicle’s story notes that the federal courts have no 22nd circuit. It’s also not possible for a president to directly remove a federal judge, the newspaper's story reminds; Congress can force removals via impeachment.
Smith told us it made more sense to leave in place the errant Sharia law story than for Miller to delete his post, removing any hint of what he'd shared to begin with. "Removing it would have been more egregious. Letting people know it’s inaccurate is the proper thing to do," Smith said.
CORRECTION, 3:42 p.m., Nov. 28, 2017: This story has been amended to quote Smith saying Miller posted his Facebook messages over four years--not two years.
Facebook post by Sid Miller, Nov. 26, 2017 (accessed Nov. 28, 2017)
Phone interview, Todd Smith, consultant, Sid Miller campaign, Nov. 28, 2017
Story, "Sid Miller defends unfactual Facebook posts," PolitiFact Texas, Dec. 8, 2016
Truth-O-Meter article, "Sid Miller posts manipulated photo of 'The Rock' wearing a pro-flag T-shirt," PolitiFact Texas, Dec. 7, 2016
Fact-check, "Did Muslim Federal Judge 'Mahal al Alallaha-Smith' Rule Two Items of Sharia Law Are Now Legal?," Snopes.com, undated (accessed Nov. 28, 2017)
Fact-check, "No Legalization of Sharia Law," Fact Check, July 28, 2017
News story, "Miller shares fake news story, trumpets Trump," Houston Chronicle, Nov. 27, 2017