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In the wake of mass shootings at a Walmart in El Paso and outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, conspiracy theories are wrongly claiming that they were "false flag" operations. An Aug. 5 Facebook post even promises proof but the evidence on offer falls apart pretty quickly.
"BOOM," the post begins. "FOX REPORTER REPORTS NEXT SHOOTING 23 MINUTES BEFORE IT HAPPENED."
A long missive follows, but the gist is this: A video clip linked in the post "proves the deep state is doing the shootings" because a Fox News affiliate in El Paso announced another shooting that was supposed to happen at another WalMart before it happened.
The post describes the actions of one of the TV station’s anchors and then launches into a massive conspiracy theory: "She checks her Twitter and re-checks it, looks a little confused, and then says ‘that hasent (sic) happened yet. … Folks, this proves Twitter is in on the shootings, Fox News is in on the shootings, Wal Mart (sic) is in on the shootings ... NO WAY FOX HAD THE REPORT AHEAD OF TIME WITHOUT BEING DIRECTLY INVOLVED, BUSTED BUSTED BUSTED."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
What actually happened in that news anchors were reading tweets from different time zones and were momentarily confused.
Here's how it unfolded:
On Aug. 3, at about 12:26 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time — El Paso’s time zone — KFOX news anchors interrupted programming to report on an active shooting at a Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso. This is the shooting that led to the deaths of at least 22 people.
Later that day, around 2:35 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time, Erika Castillo, one of the station’s anchors, said that "an incident, as it was told to us, happened in the Walmart in Horizon (City)" in El Paso County.
"I’m not sure what time this tweet went out, however," she said, looking down at something on the desk before her. "Okay, here it is, at 3 p.m. Well that’s, that hasn’t happened yet, so okay today is the 3rd—" Another anchor interrupts her and says, "This is 35 minutes ago."
The video that was posted on Facebook cuts off around then, but the full video shows that Castillo continued: "So this just came out. Horizon Police Department said they just responded to a subject with a gun call at the Walmart in Horizon, and they were able to locate the individual and found he was open carrying and checked out okay and then the door was reopened."
We reached out to KFOX about the Facebook post but didn’t hear back. However, Castillo wasn’t describing a shooting that hadn’t happened yet. At 2 p.m. in both Horizon City and El Paso’s time zone of Mountain Daylight Time, the Horizon City Police Department tweeted: "About an hour ago, HCPD responded to a subject with a gun call at our local Wal-Mart. The HCPD were able to locate the individual with and found he was open carrying and checked okay. The store has since reopened."
If someone read the police department’s tweet from a city in a different time zone — say, Austin, Texas, which is on Central Time — the tweet’s timestamp would read as "3 p.m." That’s because the Twitter timestamp changes according to the time zone of the person viewing the tweet on Twitter.
Castillo explained in response to the video that the information she was reading from was a screen shot of a tweet that was made in a different time zone.
"I was looking at and trying to decipher an image grab of a tweet that had been made in east coast time," she said. "El Paso is the only major city in Texas that sits on Mountain time. Just trying to process the timeline after a marathon of wall to wall coverage."
There’s no conspiracy here.
We rate this Facebook post False.
Facebook post, Aug. 5, 2019
KFOX reporting on El Paso shooting, Aug. 3, 2019
KFOX reporting on Horizon Walmart incident, Aug. 3, 2019
Horizon City Police Department tweet, Aug. 3, 2019
Erika Castillo tweet, Aug. 5, 2019
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