In today’s political climate, you would be hard-pressed to log onto social media and not scroll past at least one political meme. And while some of these memes might occasionally make you laugh, the issue with them lies in the fact that they are not always based in truth. This “stretching of the truth” can range all the way from slight exaggeration to complete fabrication, so — with that in mind — it is best not to take everything that you may see on your social media feed at face value.
While scouring Google for political memes to assess, this one in particular caught my attention:
While it was unclear what the exact origins of this meme were, I could see by the watermark that it was at least shared by a group called “Americans for Trump.” This piqued my interest in fact checking it, as this group clearly states their political opinion, therefor informing us that they are not an unbiased source.
I began my fact check with a DuckDuckGo search of “bernie sanders site:snopes.com site:politifact.com site:factcheck.org.” The first result to come up was a Snopes fact check for a similar meme that made nearly identical claims:
According to this Snopes fact check, this original version of the meme began to circulate social media in February of 2016 when Sanders was running as a presidential candidate for the Democratic party.
It also debated the legitimacy of the claim that Sanders has never owned a business, rebutting with the fact that he had started a non-profit organization called The American People’s Historical Society in 1978, where films about the history of Vermont — his state of residence at the time — were made and sold for educational purposes. For confirmation of this, I looked on Bernie Sanders’ Wikipedia page, where it confirmed that he had “created and sold ‘radical film strips’ and other educational materials to schools” (Via the “Professional history and early years in Vermont” section of the page). Snopes did, however, acknowledge that this does not qualify as “owning” a business in the technical sense.
In order to find more clarity on this, I narrowed my DuckDuckGo search slightly to “bernie sanders business site:snopes.com site:politifact.com site:factcheck.org”. This yielded a result for a Politifact article titled “Old meme is wrong on Bernie Sanders’ resume, finances.” Here, the article’s author Samantha Putterman wrote that The American People’s Historical Society “wasn’t a business in the strictest sense,” coming to the conclusion that the statement of Sanders never owning a business was true.
Putterman’s article also addressed the claim that Sanders was a recipient of Welfare before getting elected into office. According to it, Sanders did receive unemployment benefits while he was running for office, however he did not receive Welfare.
Another point of contention that was a critical aspect of the meme in question was that Sanders had never proposed a bill that passed. According to both Snopes and Politifact, this is untrue. Politifact even provided a link to Bernie Sanders’ record on GovTrack, a website that provides statistics regarding the activity of the United States Congress.
In order to see this information for myself, I went to the provided link and scrolled down to the “Enacted Legislation” section of Sanders’ record. Here it not only confirms that he has sponsored seven bills that have been enacted into law, but also provides the purpose of each of them. According to this information, Sanders has sponsored three bills enacted as a member of the Senate and four as a member of the House of Representatives.
It is clear through fact checking some of the key claims within this meme that it is not an accurate assessment of Bernie Sanders’ life both before and during his political career. Both the Snopes fact check of this meme and Putterman’s Politifact article confirm that — while some aspects, such as Sanders never having invented something, are true — there is key information that ranges from being misrepresented to completely false. For example, it could be argued that the claim of Sanders “living off of Welfare” could have been a misunderstanding or miscommunication, but the claim of him never having sponsored a bill that was passed into law was simply untrue.
Because multiple different sources were aligned regarding the real information on Sanders’ life, and because the original meme offered no citations to confirm where the creator(s) found their information, it is clear that the facts gathered through research are more reliable than the information presented in the original meme.