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Someone named Ben Shapiro in Los Angeles received nearly $21,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, but that person worked in the real estate industry, according to a ProPublica database.
Conservative political commentator and media personality Ben Shapiro is based in Florida. He has a different middle initial than the Shapiro in California who records show received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.
Shapiro, the media personality, said on Twitter that he never got a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan. We found no evidence to contradict this.
A tale of two Ben Shapiros ensnared a conservative political commentator in what initially appeared to be an example of loan-forgiveness hypocrisy.
"I have a controversial idea about paying off student loan debt," conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said in an Aug. 23 tweet. "Don’t take out debt you will likely be unable to pay off, and don't ask others to pay off your debts."
Screenshots of these Twitter exchanges spread quickly to other platforms including Facebook.
The posts were flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
(Screenshot from Facebook.)
Although the screenshots looked damning at first glance, a case of mistaken identity was at play.
A Los Angeles-based Ben Shapiro received nearly $21,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, but that person worked in the real estate industry, according to a ProPublica database.
Media personality Ben Shapiro lived in California until he moved to South Florida in late 2020, according to news reports. Shapiro said in a Sept. 22, 2021, episode of his show that he’d lived in Florida for a year. It appears the Shapiro who got the loan from the program is a different person.
President Joe Biden on Aug. 24 announced his plan to forgive up to $20,000 of student loan debt for eligible borrowers. The plan drew criticism from many conservative politicians and pundits.
Pushing back, cheerleaders of Biden’s move took to social media. They drew parallels between the student debt cancellation plan and another kind of debt forgiveness: the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. That federal program was designed to help small businesses continue paying employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic’s early months, and many loans from the program were forgiven.
Even the White House got in on the action, calling out Republican lawmakers whose loans from the program were forgiven.
But not everyone exchanging barbs had federal loans forgiven.
Twitter users who alleged that Shapiro, a conservative commentator and relentless Biden critic who is based in Florida, received loan forgiveness drew their proof from screenshots of ProPublica’s Tracking Paycheck Protection Program database. The database can be used to search "every company approved for federal loans," according to ProPublica’s website.
But a closer look at the database indicates that a different person named Ben Shapiro received a Paycheck Protection Program loan — and, later, loan forgiveness:
(Screenshot from ProPublica.)
A search of ProPublica’s database did not show that a Florida-based Ben Shapiro in the media industry received PPP loans.
A search of a second Paycheck Protection Program loan database, PPP-Loan.info, also turned up a California-based Ben Shapiro who received a federal loan from the program worth nearly $21,000. Both databases report the same lender, Celtic Bank Corp. PPP-Loan.info showed a partial address, which we linked to a Los Angeles realtor named Ben J. Shapiro.
We reached out to this Shapiro but did not hear back.
Conservative media personality Ben Shapiro’s middle name is Aaron.
PolitiFact also searched the database to see whether the right-wing website Shapiro founded, The Daily Wire, received Paycheck Protection Program loans. We found no evidence that it did. The Daily Wire is based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Shapiro himself took to Twitter to debunk the claims.
So they found a person named Ben Shapiro who applied for and received a loan in Los Angeles in 2021. Here's the full screenshot -- notice the same amount. As you may know, I am not a real estate agent or broker. pic.twitter.com/oImtUImdFp— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 24, 2022
Left-wing social media users "are saying I took PPP money," he said Aug. 24. "This is a lie."
He added: "As you may know, I am not a real estate agent or broker."
Alyssa Cordova, a spokesperson for the Daily Wire and Shapiro, said neither accepted the federal program’s funds.
Screenshots shared on Facebook suggested that Shapiro received almost $21,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.
A California-based real estate industry business owner named Ben Shapiro received nearly $21,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. Political commentator Ben Shapiro said it wasn’t he who received the money and we found no evidence contradicting that.
We rate these claims False.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed research to this report.
Facebook post, Aug. 25, 2022
Ben Shapiro tweet, Aug. 23, 2022
Tweet, Aug. 23, 2022
Tweet, Aug. 24, 2022
ProPublica, "Tracking PPP," accessed Aug. 26, 2022
ProPublica, "Tracking PPP: Ben Shapiro," accessed Aug. 26, 2022
Politico, "The new center of Trump’s political world: Palm Beach," Dec. 31, 2020
The Tennessean, "Ben Shapiro is moving to Nashville, and he's bringing The Daily Wire with him," Sept. 15, 2020
Deadline, "The Daily Wire to move headquarters from Los Angeles to Nashville," Sept. 15, 2020
YouTube, "Ben Shapiro reflects on his decision to leave California," Sept. 22, 2021
Pandemic Oversight, "Update: 10.2 million PPP loans were forgiven. Here’s why," Aug. 24, 2022
Emailed statement from Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire spokesperson Alyssa Cordova, Aug. 26, 2022
PPP-Loan.info, "PPP Loan information for BEN SHAPIRO," accessed Aug. 26, 2022
FederalPay.org, "PPP loan data — Ben Shapiro, Los Angeles, CA," accessed Aug. 26, 2022
The Daily Wire, "Spotlight: Ben Shapiro," archived March 2019
BenJShapiro.com, "About Ben," accessed Aug. 26, 2022
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