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This Dec. 5, 2016 file photo shows Comet Ping Pong pizza shop in Washington, D.C., the target of false internet rumors dubbed “Pizzagate.” (AP) This Dec. 5, 2016 file photo shows Comet Ping Pong pizza shop in Washington, D.C., the target of false internet rumors dubbed “Pizzagate.” (AP)

This Dec. 5, 2016 file photo shows Comet Ping Pong pizza shop in Washington, D.C., the target of false internet rumors dubbed “Pizzagate.” (AP)

Sofia Ahmed
By Sofia Ahmed November 30, 2023

Journalist who pleaded guilty to possession of child sexual abuse images did not debunk Pizzagate

If Your Time is short

  • Former ABC News investigative journalist James Gordon Meek was sentenced in September to six years in federal prison for possessing and transporting child sexual abuse images. 
     
  • Meek never debunked the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He mentioned the theory once in an article about Russian propaganda in Syria.

Billionaire Elon Musk promoted the controversial Pizzagate conspiracy theory on X, formerly Twitter. 

Musk posted a meme Nov. 28 suggesting that Pizzagate is real because an expert who debunked the conspiracy theory was arrested for child pornography. Musk later deleted his post, but the meme was reshared on Facebook.

That Facebook post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The Pizzagate conspiracy theory emerged in 2016 and claimed that Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democratic politicians were sexually trafficking children out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria. It has been widely debunked and PolitiFact found no evidence to support the claim. 

In a follow-up X post that Musk also deleted, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder shared a link to a story about former ABC News journalist James Gordon Meek pleading guilty to possessing and transporting child sexual abuse materials, The Associated Press reported.

Meek was sentenced in September to six years in federal prison for transportation and possession of child sexual abuse images, according to The Associated Press.

But we searched Meek’s bylines on ABC News’ website and in the Nexis news database and found no ABC News articles in which he debunked the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He did mention Pizzagate once in a story about Russian propaganda in Syria. 

The claim that Meek debunked Pizzagate seems to have originated from what appears to be a fake New York Post headline that read, "Award winning ABC journalist who ‘debunked’ Pizzagate, pleads guilty in horrific child porn case." We searched the New York Post archives, Nexis news archives and Google and found no story with that or a similar headline. PolitiFact also reached out to the New York Post to confirm whether the headline was authentic, but did not immediately receive a response. 

We rate the claim that a Pizzagate expert went to jail for child pornography False. 

PolitiFact Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

 

Our Sources

Facebook post resharing Elon Musk post on X, Nov. 29, 2023 

PolitiFact, "Four years later, there’s still no evidence to support Pizzagate theory," Oct. 7, 2020. 

Twitter post of fake New York Post headline, Aug. 9, 2023. 

New York Post search results, "Pizzagate guilty", Aug. 14, 2023. 

U.S. Office of Public Affairs, Department of Justice, "Former Journalist Pleads Guilty to Transportation and Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material," July 21, 2023. 

ABC News, James Gordon Meek Biography, Nov. 28, 2023. 

ABC News, "Behind #SyriaHoax and the Russian propaganda onslaught," Apr. 13, 2017. 

The Associated Press, "An ex-investigative journalist is sentenced to 6 years in a child sexual abuse materials case," Sep. 29, 2023. 

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Journalist who pleaded guilty to possession of child sexual abuse images did not debunk Pizzagate

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