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Maricopa County ballots cast in November are being recounted by contractors under a recount launched by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix,  April 29. (Arizona Republic via AP) Maricopa County ballots cast in November are being recounted by contractors under a recount launched by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix,  April 29. (Arizona Republic via AP)

Maricopa County ballots cast in November are being recounted by contractors under a recount launched by the Arizona State Senate at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, April 29. (Arizona Republic via AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman May 5, 2021

Airplane over coliseum wasn’t spying on Arizona audit

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post falsely said that a city of Phoenix airplane circled the coliseum, the site of the audit, to spy on the audit. 

  • The Phoenix police department said their airplanes are regularly used on routine police calls, such as a recent one about a stolen vehicle, and was not involved in the audit.

The Republican-orchestrated audit of ballots cast in Arizona’s Maricopa County is rife with conspiracy theories. The latest one involves spies in the sky.

"Spy Plane Identified Circling the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Where the Election Audit Is Taking Place – What’s Going On?" stated a May 3 headline on David Harris Jr.’s website. 

The 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.)

The Facebook post is wrong.

Biden won Arizona by about 10,000 votes in November, flipping the state to the Democrats after Donald Trump’s win in 2016. Maricopa County — the state’s largest and home to the capital, Phoenix — found no abnormalities in earlier audits, but state Senate Republicans sought to pursue their own audit of the battleground county. Election experts nationwide, including Republicans, have said the audit lacks transparency and is unnecessary.

The Facebook post provides no evidence to back up the claim that there was a spy plane circling the coliseum, the site of the audit of 2.1 million ballots. The Facebook post attributes the information to The Gateway Pundit, a source of inaccurate claims about the presidential election results.

The Gateway Pundit wrote that it had received information that an airplane had been circling the coliseum. But the accompanying map showed the flight path wasn’t above the coliseum, just nearby. The Gateway Pundit updated the story to say the airplane was registered to the city of Phoenix.

Featured Fact-check

The updated article included a response from Sgt. Maggie Cox, a Phoenix police spokesperson: "This was brought to our attention by another media outlet. The article narrative is not accurate. While the maps do accurately represent our flights, both times ... the aircraft was on police calls that had nothing to do with the events at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum. Please update your news story." 

Cox gave PolitiFact a similar statement. She said that one of the airplane calls was related to a stolen vehicle.

The airplane "was not over the coliseum," Cox said. "It has nothing to do with the events in the coliseum. It’s not over the audit — I verified that with the air unit." 

The police department’s website says the air support unit flies about 8,000 hours a year and assists in pursuits by vehicle and foot, recovers stolen vehicles and executes mountain rescues. 

We found no evidence that a plane was deployed to spy on the audit. We rate this statement Pants on Fire!

RELATED: Ask PolitiFact: Why are Arizona Republicans auditing election results?

RELATED: No, a quarter million fraudulent votes weren’t uncovered in an Arizona election audit

RELATED: No proof for pro-Trump conspiracy theory of secret watermarks on Ariz. ballots

Our Sources

David Harris Jr Facebook post, Spy Plane Identified Circling the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Where the Election Audit Is Taking Place – What’s Going On? May 3, 2021

Gateway Pundit, EXCLUSIVE: Spy Plane Identified Circling the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Where the Election Audit Is Taking Place – What’s Going On? …Update: Phoenix Police Respond, May 3, 2021

City of Phoenix website, Air Support Unit, Accessed May 5, 2021

Arizona State Fair, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Accessed May 5, 2021

AP, No one sent a ‘spy plane’ to surveil Arizona election audit, May 4, 2021

PolitiFact, Gateway Pundit, Accessed May 5, 2021

Email interview, Phoenix police Sgt. Maggie Cox, May 5, 2021

 

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Airplane over coliseum wasn’t spying on Arizona audit

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