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Fake CNBC headline falsely states that Justice Sonia Sotomayor has COVID-19

A doctored screenshot of a CNBC news report spread the false claim that Justice Sonia Sotomayor tested positive for COVID-19, despite taking precautions. But that’s not true. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A Facebook post by musician Ted Nugent includes a screenshot of what appears to be a news report from CNBC. The headline in the screenshot reads “Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor tests positive for COVID-19 despite triple vaccination, diligent masking and working from home.” The screenshot includes the byline of CNBC journalist Kevin Breuninger. The News Literacy Project added a label that says “FAKE HEADLINE.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not test positive for COVID-19.
Musician Ted Nugent posted a screenshot on Facebook of a CNBC report that includes a digitally fabricated headline.
An NBC spokesperson confirmed to the News Literacy Project that “CNBC.com has not published an article with that headline.”
CNBC did publish a report (archived here) by Kevin Breuninger at 10:55 a.m. EST on Jan. 18, but the headline was “Supreme Court’s Gorsuch refused to wear mask despite request over Sotomayor’s Covid concerns, report says.”

NewsLit takeaway

Screenshots of news reports or other webpages should always be viewed with skepticism, especially when they are presented without a direct link to the story as “evidence” for a controversial or sensational claim. It’s also important to consider the reputation of the source of such claims. Ted Nugent has a history of making outrageous, hyperpartisan statements, including many that are false. He also has previously shared misinformation online (and has become a target of false claims himself). This post is a good reminder of how easy it is to change text in digital images with simple editing tools.

Related: “NPR reporting on Supreme Court mask controversy merits clarification” (Kelly McBride, NPR).

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