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Archived: Sean Hannity falls for hoax website on claim that U.S. is taking in 250,000 Syrian refugees
"The president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 (Syrian and Iraqi) refugees into this country."
— Sean Hannity on Monday, October 19th, 2015 in a segment of Fox News' "Hannity"
By Jon Greenberg on Monday, October 26th, 2015 at 5:16 p.m.
The waves of refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq have given the conflict there a domestic immediacy in the race for the White House. While Europe is absorbing the great majority of refugees, some are headed toward the United States. The question is, how many?
About 250,000, according to Fox News host Sean Hannity. During an interview with Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush on Oct. 19, 2015, Hannity worried that ISIS would try to infiltrate the arriving masses.
"You see the backlash emerging now in Europe over the refugee problem for Syria and Iraq," Hannity said. "The president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 refugees into this country."
"We can’t take 250,000 refugees," Bush responded. "I’ve never heard that, and that would be impossible to imagine logistically for us to screen."
In plain fact, President Barack Obama never said that, nor as far as anyone can tell has any member of his administration. In September, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Obama "informed his team that he would like them to accept -- at least make preparations to accept -- at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year."
In its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, the administration is asking for enough money to resettle 85,000 people in total from around the world. The figure would rise to 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2017.
The 250,000 figure, if it were accurate, would dwarf the 120,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict the European community said it aims to relocate inside its members’ borders.
The Migration Policy Institute gathers data to track the movement of people across the globe.
"We are not aware of any suggestion that the United States would seek to resettle 250,000 refugees from Syria or Iraq," Michelle Mittelstadt, the institute’s director of communications, told us.
We reached out to Hannity’s program and did not hear back.
The figure he used seems to have emerged in early September on a website called realnewsrightnow.com. The website reported that State Department spokeswoman Cathy Pieper announced that 250,000 Syrian refugees would be resettled on tribal reservation lands in Arizona and North Dakota.
We could find no Cathy Pieper working for the State Department.
Other articles on realnewsrightnow.com claim that "Obama will exercise his presidential powers" ending term limits and that Pope Francis claimed that "God Has Instructed Me to Revise the Ten Commandments."
The author of all the articles is R. Hobbus J.D., who "has received numerous awards for his work including the prestigious Stephen Glass Distinction in Journalistic Integrity (2011), The Oscar Mayer Award for Journalistic Excellence (2003), three Nobel Peace Prize nominations, one Pulitzer in Investigative Reporting (1998), and two Pulitzer Prizes in Commentary (1996, 2008). He resides comfortably in his modest home overlooking the coast of Nantucket surrounded by his wife and twelve cats."
Long story short, while we don’t know where Hannity got his number, it appears someone fell for a hoax from a fake news website.
For the record, Hannity brought up the figure again Oct. 20 during an interview with Donald Trump. And Trump then used the 250,000 figure at a townhall meeting broadcast live on NBC in New Hampshire, Oct. 26.
Hannity said that Obama plans to bring 250,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to America. The number is not only disconnected from anything Obama or his administration ever said, it flies in the face of any number associated with America’s refugee resettlement program.
In fact, it is about three times bigger than the total number of refugees Obama has asked to bring in during 2016 from all around the world.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire.
Update: Hannity responded to our fact-check during his Oct. 27 show. We are currently reviewing his comments and will post an update.
Fox News, Hannity, Oct. 19, 2015
NBC News, Today, Oct. 26, 2015
White House, Daily press briefing, Sept. 10, 2015
U.S. State Department, FY13 Refugee Admissions Statistics, July 1, 2014
U.S. State Department, Proposed Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2016, Oct. 1, 2015
Migration Policy Institute, Europe’s Migration Crisis in Context: Why Now and What Next?, Sept. 24, 2015
Realnewsrightnow.com, U.S. to House 250,000 Syrian Refugees at Navajo, Standing Rock Indian Reservations, Sept. 6, 2015
Email interview, Peter Boogaard, spokesman, National Security Council, Oct. 26, 2015
Email interview, Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications, Migration Policy Institute, Oct. 26, 2015