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The week in fact-checking: Renaming military bases, Trump rally
President Donald Trump (AP) President Donald Trump (AP)

President Donald Trump (AP)

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan June 20, 2020

"The Week in Fact-checking" compiles short summaries of our best work; the links will take you to our full reports. Want this report early and via email? Sign up here

This week: New names for military bases named for Confederates … Can pranksters disrupt Trump’s Tulsa rally? … Oklahoma is not flattening the curve … And the Trump campaign isn’t hiring actors … Fact-checkers under threat in the Philippines … A Pants-on-Fire claim from Trump on COVID-19 testing 

Historians suggest new names for military bases named after Confederates

Despite President Donald Trump’s opposition, momentum is growing to rename 10 military bases that have long been named for Confederates.

The bases got their names mainly during World War I and World War II, when military officials, under pressure to mobilize larger forces, erected bases in the South and yielded to local politicians’ preferences for names.

Military historians queried by PolitiFact gave a long list of potential replacement names, from top generals to African American military pioneers.

The historians we checked with — who were unanimous that the base names should be changed — offered several categories of historical figures who might be candidates for renamed bases. 

This list of top generals included Lee’s Union rival, Ulysses S. Grant, as well as Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Marshall and George S. Patton from World War II. 

Among African Americans, Martin Delaney was the first black officer during the Civil War, while Christian Fleetwood was a Medal of Honor recipient during the Civil War. And Harriet Tubman served as a spy in the Union army.

One long-standing proposal has been to rename Ft. Hood for Roy Benavidez, a Texan of Mexican ancestry who served in the Army special forces and who won a Medal of Honor for service in the Vietnam War.

Read our full story for more suggestions the historians offered.

Louis Jacobson

Look for our coverage of Trump’s Saturday night Tulsa rally. We’ll be fact-checking live via Twitter and writing a story about our findings. 

Fact-checks of the week

Pence wrong on Oklahoma ‘flattening the curve.’ Defending Trump’s decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, Pence said, "In a very real sense, they’ve flattened the curve. ... The number of cases in Oklahoma — it's declined precipitously." We rated that False (and we have charts to prove it). This observation is outdated and inaccurate. In June, Oklahoma’s daily caseload has risen consistently, and to levels higher than at any point in the pandemic.

No, Trump campaign isn’t hiring actors to come to the rally. A Facebook post claims the Trump campaign is recruiting "excited and enthusiastic MINORITY actors and actresses" to appear at his Tulsa rally. Its evidence is a Craigslist ad. Though there has been credible reporting about the role of paid protesters in some political efforts, this Craigslist ad itself is a hoax, and a repeated one. Trump opponents take out the ads as a way of mocking the real campaign. We rated the claim False

Benghazi’s back?  No, Hillary Clinton is not on trial, even though a social media post claims she is: "Hillary Clinton is on trial for Bengazi (sic) this week." We rated that False. A court hearing was held on whether Clinton can be deposed in a lawsuit seeking emails and other records regarding the attack. We don’t know how the legal maneuvering will turn out, but we do know the claim that Clinton is not on trial. 

Knowing the facts has never been more important. Please consider donating to PolitiFact today. 

Trump opponents are reserving tickets to his Tulsa rally to leave empty seats. It won’t work

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign says 1 million people have registered for tickets to his June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., the first since the outbreak of the coronavirus put a halt to large-scale gatherings months ago. 

But some social media users say they bought tickets with no intention of going

What if they "all went to events.donaldjtrump.com and scooped up all the tickets for the rally in Tulsa so he was speaking to an empty crowd," said a June 12 tweet, which was screenshotted and shared on Facebook.

Could anti-Trump protesters really buy up enough tickets to leave Tulsa’s BOK Center mostly empty? It doesn’t seem likely.

"That is the silliest idea I’ve ever heard," said Bob Jack, chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party.

The efforts by anti-Trump social media users aren’t likely to work. Even if roughly 98% of the 1 million people who registered to attend plan on skipping the event, there would still be enough people to fill the BOK Center to its 19,000-person capacity.

Trump rallies are often overbooked, with supporters lining up hours in advance to get in. Some people are already waiting outside the BOK Center and on nearby Denver Avenue, local news outlets have reported. Jack said he spoke to one person from Massachusetts who arrived on June 14.

Except for delegation and party officials, everybody has to get in line, Jack told us.

Alicia Andrews, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, told us the state party doesn’t support or encourage registering for the Trump rally with the intention of leaving the seat empty because "these ‘protest registrations’ only serve to elevate the number of registrations."

"Typically, these rallies are seated on a first-come, first-served basis," Andrews said. "They will not be checking registrations."

Finally, health officials have warned that the gathering could spread COVID-19. Bruce Dart, the director of Tulsa’s city and county health department, told the Tulsa World that he wished the campaign would "postpone this to a time when the virus isn’t as large a concern."

Bill McCarthy

Fact-checkers under threat in the Philippines

Since 2017, the Philippines-based Rappler has been considered a respected news organization across the fact-checking community, publishing nonpartisan articles with transparency and thorough methodology.

So fact-checkers this week responded with a mix of rage and resolve to the guilty verdict given to Maria Ressa, Rappler’s CEO and executive director, and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr., in a cyber libel case that threatens press freedom in Asia.

Ressa and Santos were considered guilty of libel for an article about Wilfredo Keng, the CEO of a mining company called Century Peak Holdings Corp. According to Rappler’s reporting, Keng had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking and had also lent a car to a top judge.

Ressa denied the charges and claimed they were politically motivated. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said the verdict "basically kills freedom of speech and of the press."

"This is a dark day not only for independent Philippine media but for all Filipinos," the group said, according to The New York Times. The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines described the latest development as "a menacing blow to press freedom."

Read more about the case and fact-checkers’ reactions at Poynter.org.

Harrison Mantas and Cristina Tardáguila, International Fact-Checking Network

Pants on Fire

Do you smell smoke? 

Here's your Pants on Fire fact-check of the week: 

Donald Trump: "If we stopped testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any."

Yes, he said that. And it’s ridiculously wrong.

See what else we've rated Pants on Fire this week. 

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The week in fact-checking: Renaming military bases, Trump rally