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In a popular video on Facebook and YouTube, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney makes several false and baseless claims about the Capitol insurrection, coronavirus pandemic and 2020 election.
In a video viewed tens of thousands of times on Facebook, a retired Air Force officer makes a slew of inaccurate and baseless claims about everything from the Capitol insurrection to the coronavirus pandemic.
The video, one of hundreds we found on Facebook, shows former Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney speaking to a group of eight un-masked people as classical music plays in the background.
Over 19 minutes, McInerney — a former Fox News analyst and military adviser for the Trump campaign — spins a conspiracy theory that claims Democrats coordinated with the Chinese government to create COVID-19 and commit voter fraud to oust President Donald Trump. As a result, he said, Trump is using the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection to pursue justice.
(Screenshot from CrowdTangle)
The location and source of the video is unclear, but the earliest version we could find was published Jan. 8, 2021, on YouTube by Ann Vandersteel, who has previously promoted the Pizzagate conspiracy theory (an earlier version of QAnon). From there, it was copied to other YouTube channels and promoted on Twitter, Facebook and Parler, before the platform was taken offline.
PolitiFact debunked several of the false claims McInerney made during the video. We reached out to McInerney through his company YottaStor for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.
McInerney’s claim is one of the longest-running falsehoods about the pandemic. The scientific community and international public health organizations have said the coronavirus emerged from bats and later jumped to humans.
Since Election Day, Trump fans have spread a conspiracy theory that says a CIA package of computer programs hacked into the 2020 presidential election results. The theory claims one program, called Hammer, cracks into protected networks, while another, called Scorecard, changed vote totals.
Chris Krebs, former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said in a Nov. 7 tweet that the theory was "nonsense." One of the main promoters of Hammer and Scorecard was a discredited military contractor who claimed to have created the programs.
There is no evidence of voter fraud affecting the outcome of the 2020 election. Election officials in every state said there was no sign of significant voter fraud.
After Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, social media users and allies of the president claimed antifa, a loose coalition of left-wing activists, was to blame. But specific individuals who were rumored to be antifa activists don’t actually support the movement, and a report that claimed a facial recognition firm had identified members of the movement was later corrected.
Meanwhile, plans to "storm the Capitol" were drawn up in the open on social media forums and pro-Trump websites. Video and photographs from Washington show people wearing and waving Trump-branded hats, T-shirts and flags. Some rioters celebrated their participation or live-streamed the events, including a West Virginia GOP lawmaker.
On Jan. 8, FBI assistant director Steven D’Antuono said in a press briefing that the agency has "no indication" that antifa played a role in the riot.
There is no evidence that a foreign country hacked voting machines in Georgia.
In November, the state’s top elections official ordered an audit of a random sample of voting machines to determine whether any had been hacked or tampered with. The audit found "no sign of foul play."
Georgia also conducted two recounts — including one conducted by hand — that reaffirmed Biden’s victory. The secretary of state’s office has debunked other claims that people were able to hack into Georgia’s voting systems.
The theory goes like this: An employee in the U.S. embassy in Rome worked with a board member of Leonardo, a defense contractor, to commit voter fraud in the 2020 election. Leonardo used a military satellite to change votes from Trump to Biden in key battleground states.
Those claims are baseless.
Federal and state officials have said there is no evidence that voting systems were breached during the 2020 election, or that voter fraud affected the outcome. CISA said on its rumor control page that bad actors would not be able to change election results without being caught.
This is wrong — we rated a similar claim False.
The video McInerney referenced was introduced by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his team during a Dec. 3 hearing with Georgia state legislators. At the time, social media posts claimed the footage showed election workers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta illegally counting suitcases filled with ballots after observers left the room.
But that wasn’t the case, said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager.
"The 90 second video of election workers at State Farm arena, purporting to show fraud was watched in its entirety (hours) by @GaSecofState investigators," Sterling tweeted, linking to a fact-check from Lead Stories. "Shows normal ballot processing."
In reality, the video showed workers processing ballots in standard containers while observers were still in the room. Georgia officials said no one was told to leave; some observers exited after election workers had finished their jobs.
McInerney is wrong about antifa, and he is also wrong to say that the U.S. Army Special Forces took a laptop with incriminating information about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from her office during the Capitol riot.
Agence France-Presse debunked the claim in a Jan. 12 fact-check. Spokespeople for the U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command told the outlet that they had no information about such an incident.
Agence France-Presse, "Elite US forces did not take Nancy Pelosi’s laptop during Capitol chaos," Jan. 12, 2021
Amnesty International YouTube Dataviewer, accessed Jan. 12, 2021
Associated Press, "Completed Wisconsin recount confirms Biden’s win over Trump," Nov. 30, 2020
CrowdTangle, accessed Jan. 12, 2021
The Daily Beast, "Team Trump Finally Disavows Pizzagate Theorist Who Boasted of Being on 2020 Board," Jan. 23, 2019
Facebook video, Jan. 11, 2021
Georgia Secretary of State’s office, FACT CHECK: GEORGIA SENATE MASQUERADES FAILED TREASURE HUNTER AS HACKER AND ELECTION SECURITY EXPERT
Georgia Secretary of State’s office, SECRETARY RAFFENSPERGER ANNOUNCES COMPLETION OF VOTING MACHINE AUDIT USING FORENSIC TECHNIQUES: NO SIGN OF FOUL PLAY
The Guardian, "Parler goes offline after Amazon drops it due to 'violent content,’" Jan. 11, 2021
Lead Stories, "Fact Check: 'Stefan Serafini,' An Alleged Foreign Service Officer, Did NOT Work With Barack Obama, Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi And Others To Rig The 2020 Election," Jan. 7, 2021
The New York Times, "A Georgia election official debunked Trump’s claims of voter fraud, point by point." Jan. 4, 2021
PolitiFact, "Debunking the ‘Hammer and Scorecard’ election fraud conspiracy theory," Nov. 10, 2020
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking claims about the Insurrection Act, martial law after Capitol riot," Jan. 11, 2021
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking hoaxes and conspiracies about the coronavirus," Jan. 24, 2020
PolitiFact, "Here’s how we know Trump’s repeated claim of a landslide victory is wrong," Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, "How Pizzagate went from fake news to a real problem for a D.C. business," Dec. 5, 2016
PolitiFact, "Meet Donald Trump's 88 military advisers," Sept. 7, 2016
PolitiFact, "No, facial recognition didn’t confirm antifa infiltrated Trump supporters at the Capitol," Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, "No, Georgia election workers didn’t kick out observers and illegally count ‘suitcases’ of ballots," Dec. 4, 2020
PolitiFact, "There’s no proof antifa stormed the Capitol. The rumor spread quickly anyway," Jan. 7, 2021
PolitiFact, "Tucker Carlson guest airs debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab," Sept. 16, 2020
PolitiFact, "What is QAnon, the baseless conspiracy spilling into US politics?" Aug. 27, 2020
PolitiFact, "When the U.S. goes to war, TV networks call on the warheads," Sept. 25, 2014
Tweet from Drew Hammill, Jan. 8, 2021
Twitter Advanced Search, Jan. 12, 2021
USA Today, "Fact check: Claims of electoral fraud in Rome, dubbed 'ItalyGate,' are baseless," Jan. 8, 2021
U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, #PROTECT2020 RUMOR VS. REALITY
YouTube video from Ann Vandersteel, Jan. 8, 2021