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It’s clear that Sarah Palin hates the Paris climate agreement.
What’s unclear is why she used a photo of Florida lawmakers to make her point in a Facebook meme.
"Don’t be fooled! The Paris climate accord is a scam," stated the headline at the top of Palin’s Facebook post June 6, 2017. (By June 7, the Facebook meme was no longer available but PolitiFact had taken a screenshot of her post, which had been shared at least 8,000 times.)
Beneath the headline is a photo of an unidentified group of mostly men cheering. The Facebook post doesn’t identify the people in the photo, but they are Florida House members at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.
Beneath the photo Palin shared is text that says: "They pretend it’s about fixing our environment ... But it’s really about stealing billions from the American people and giving it to foreign countries, governments and lobbyists!"
The Facebook meme, posted after President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, could leave the impression that the people in the photo are rejoicing over using the agreement to steal billions from Americans.
That's not the case.
PolitiFact fact-checked Palin’s photo as part of our effort to debunk fake news on Facebook. Our efforts to reach a spokesperson for Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, were unsuccessful. (Palin’s post was previously debunked by other news outlets including the Miami Herald, a partner along with the Tampa Bay Times in PolitiFact Florida, and Politico.)
The photo is actually from the 2011 Florida legislative session.
We interviewed four of the Republican politicians in the photo: state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and former House members Will Weatherford, a former speaker from Wesley Chapel; Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary, and Rachel Burgin of Riverview. We also interviewed a Democrat in the photo: Jeff Clemens, now a state senator of Lake Worth.
Not all of the legislators recalled the particulars of the photo, but all of them said that their cheers had nothing to do with the Paris climate accord -- which was signed years later -- or about climate change.
Plakon directed us to search the Florida House website to show the real reason behind the cheering. The website showed that the photo was taken by House photographer Mark Foley. The cutline states: "From the left, Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, signaled that session was coming to a close as members celebrate on the House floor, May 7, 2011."
Plakon recalled some late night (which led to early morning) back-and-forth maneuvering between the House and the Senate in the final hours of that session.
"It was a famous night," Plakon said.
The final hours of the 2011 legislative session on Saturday, May 7, were chaotic, according to a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times timeline. As the hours stretched on, lawmakers played songs such as "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help" by the Beatles and "The Final Countdown" on the public speaker.
At 11:30 p.m. after the House unanimously rejected a Senate bill related to rules for the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the chamber erupted into cheers and shouts of, "It’s us versus the Senate."
At 1 a.m., senators went home. At 2 a.m., the House passed a bill that included tax cuts and adjourned as Handel's Hallelujah chorus played on the public address system.
Minutes later the senators had to return -- looking tired. One member came in wearing no shoes, another with no socks and a third in jeans and a T-shirt. The session finally ended at 3:35 a.m.
We were unable to confirm by deadline with House officials exactly what time Foley’s photo was taken during the conclusion of the session. But some of the members recalled the image from the conclusion of the session.
"We were all clapping because it was finally finished," Burgin said.
She described the situation as "humorous" but said it was a bad choice for Palin to use a 2011 photo of the Florida House for a post about the 2015 climate accord.
"It's kind of bad taste to label Florida legislators as being involved in that, especially in 2011," she said. "Everybody and their brother has been tagging me since it published, it’s kind of funny."
Many of the legislators got a chuckle about the use of the photo in Palin’s meme.
Plakon, a publisher of a website used by insurance claims professionals, quipped, "As a publisher I object to the use of low-resolution graphics."
For the record, Burgin said she has no opinion on the climate accord. Weatherford declined to express his opinion. Plakon called the accord a "bad deal" and sided with Trump’s position. Dorworth, who lost an election in 2012, said he didn’t support the Paris accord.
"Most of the persons in that picture probably would not have supported the Paris climate accord either," he said.
Clemens, the Democrat, was the only lawmaker we interviewed who told us he supports the climate accord. "Of course I support the world coming together to solve serious problems. Who wouldn’t?"
Palin posted a viral image that purportedly shows a group of people clapping as a result of the Paris agreement, presumably about the billions they will earn.
Except, it’s not that at all. The photo is of Florida lawmakers elated at the long-awaited close of the 2011 legislative session.
The text and photo pairing is inaccurate. We rate it False.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Facebook post, June 6, 2017 (taken down by June 7)
Florida House Website, Photo gallery for former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, May 7, 2011
Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog, "That time Sarah Palin used a Florida House photo as a Paris climate deal meme," June 7, 2017
Politico, "Palin accidentally bashes Florida Republicans in Paris accord meme," June 7, 2017
Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times, "Florida Legislature’s meltdown: How it happened," May 7, 2011
PolitiFact, Fake News, Accessed June 7, 2017
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Donald Trump's statement withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement," June 1, 2017
Interview, State Rep. Scott Plakon, June 7, 2017
Interview, Rachel Burgin, former state representative, June 7, 2017
Interview, Chris Dorworth, former state representative, June 7, 2017
Interview, Will Weatherford, former House Speaker, June 7, 2017
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