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This past weekend marked the start of daylight saving, which means we have more time to fact-check the many attacks on U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s fitness for office before the sun sets.
One Facebook post published on March 8 sounds incredulous that Democrats could have elected her to Congress.
"Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez was fired from ‘Hot Dog on a Stick’ in 2008 — for incompetence," reads the text over a photo of a woman in what looks like a uniform.
The post, which misspells the congresswoman’s first name, 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.)
A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez said the claim is false.
Hot Dog on a Stick, a hot dog company that started in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1946, didn’t immediately respond to PolitiFact’s email about the post. There are now 70 stores in seven states, according to the company’s website.
But after searching online for mentions of Ocasio-Cortez and Hot Dog on a Stick, we couldn’t find any news stories suggesting that she ever worked there, or that she was fired from the company.
Rather, Kathleen Shaffer, senior director of creative and communications for the Global Franchise Group, Hot Dog on a Stick’s parent company, told FactCheck.org that no person by the name Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ever employed there, according to the group’s records.
Next, we looked at the photo itself.
A reverse image search of the picture turned up other posts with the same claim that Ocasio-Cortez is pictured, but also photos without any text, like this one from imgflip.com. It’s described as a "Hot dog on a stick Template" where users can "caption this Meme."
The photo is included among several on a 2015 post on the website NeoGAF titled, "Is there anything hotter than a girl in a baseball cap?"
The picture also appears on Reddit, where one user noticed the same discrepancy we did: The image doesn’t look like Ocasio-Cortez. ("When you wanna trash someone but can’t be bothered to find out what she looks like," the account wrote.)
That’s because, as Gizmodo notes, it appears that the person pictured is named Stephanie, not Alexandria. Her nametag on her hat, not visible in the Facebook post, is clear on Flickr here. The image was taken by Michael Zampelli on Feb. 16, 2008, according to the website. The caption says: "Hot dog on a stick" and "Stephanie Prepares Your corndog batter!" The photo is also tagged "Los" and "Angeles." (Ocasio-Cortez is from New York and went to college in Boston.)
We reached out to Zampelli to see if he knew if it was a photo of the congressman.
"I have no idea," he said in a Facebook message. "I have her name as Stephanie so it is probably someone who just Googled hot dog on a stick."
The Facebook post claims that Ocasio-Cortez was fired from Hot Dog on a Stick for incompetence. We found no evidence to support that claim. The business’s parent company doesn’t have a record of someone with her name working there and we discovered no news reports or credible online posts to corroborate the Facebook post’s claim.
The person in the photo doesn’t look like Ocasio-Cortez, and her name tag says Stephanie. The photographer who took the picture confirmed that he identified her as someone named "Stephanie" when he shot the image.
We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, March 8, 2019
FactCheck.org, "Meme fabricates Ocasio-Cortez firing," March 6, 2019
Imgflip.com, Hot dog on a stick Template, visited, March 11, 2019
NeoGAF.com, "Is there anything hotter than a girl in a baseball cap?" Jan. 2, 2015
Gizmodo.com, "7 more viral photos that are totally fake," Feb. 12, 2019
Reddit post, February 2019
Flickr, Michael Zampelli, Hot dog on a stick, Feb. 16, 2008
The Hill, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, visited March 11, 2019
Facebook message with Michael Zampelli, March 11, 2019
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