New pledge hoax slams Obama, teachers and public schools


With this blog’s occasional focus on flag etiquette and my concern for faux patriotism, I’ve been getting barbs all day on a story out of Clark County, Nevada (home of Las Vegas).

It’s a threefer of hatred, slamming President Obama, teachers, and public schools, all at once.  Plus it is rather disrespectful of the U.S. flag.

The Clark County School District calls the story “bogus!!” with the exclamation points clear.  Spokesmen for the district complain they’ve been fielding calls all day, none with details.  Their check of the district’s schools turns up nothing.

The claim is that an elementary school student wants to drop out of school after being “forced” to say the Pledge of Allegiance to a picture of President Barack Obama backed by several U.S. flags.

Bloggers fume.  “The gall!”

Press spokesmen for the district say they encourage parents to call any principal of any school in the district with any complaint.  A survey of principals finds none who knew of such a complaint.

None of the bloggers bothered to check the facts, it appears.  The story so far checks out to be a hoax.  No one can name the school, no one can name the kid, no one can corroborate the story.  

U.S.. Nevada and Clark County flags fly at Moapa Valley High School in the Clark County School District, Nevada. Wikipedia image

U.S.. Nevada and Clark County flags fly at Moapa Valley High School in the Clark County School District, Nevada. Wikipedia image

Students in Clark County schools say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as a usual practice.  School officials were unsure whether this is done by state law, district ordinance, or tradition.  Through much of the 20th century, it was common for schools to have a picture of the sitting president in every classroom.   That tradition fell to budget cuts years ago.

What motivates people to invent such stories?  What motivates bloggers to spread stories without bothering to make the simplest check to see whether the story is accurate?  One of the things that screams “Hoax!” in this story is the complete inaction of the student and parent.  Were they worked up about it, why didn’t they bother to complain?

Here’s the wall of shame, bloggers who got suckered and repeated the story without bothering to check it out (isn’t it odd that they all seem to know exactly what photo of Obama was used, and they show it on their blogs, but they don’t know where it was used?  Isn’t it odd that they use a color photo while saying it was projected on an overhead projector, which would turn that photo into gray and white mush?):

I’ll wager that’s just the tip of a very mean-spirited iceberg of calumny.

Update, January 30 – More hate-filled spreading of the story:

Still the gullible fall, on February 1:

Nearly responsible skepticism:

I spoke again with David Roddy at the Clark County School District offices.  He confirmed that as of late this afternoon (January 30) no one had stepped forward to identify the school where the event is alleged to have occurred, nor the name of anyone involved, nor any other fact that could be corroborated to vouch for the accuracy of the story.

See “7 Signs of Bogus History.”  Notice any of these characteristics in this story’s allegations?

Update, September 5, 2009: No evidence of this event has ever been produced outside of the original two anonymous blog posts.  My investigation found no such incident in any school in or around Las Vegas, nor anywhere else.  Pure hoax.

Don’t let others be misled; spread the word:

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34 Responses to New pledge hoax slams Obama, teachers and public schools

  1. [...] suckered loser One of the sites suckered in by the Obama/Las Vegas/Pledge hoax keeps insisting he’s really taking the high road when he spreads calumny against the [...]

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    You couldn’t get it from a better source. If you think evolution is a hoax, can I interest you in stock in the Brooklyn Bridge? You know that Mayor Bloomberg is selling it only to the faithful . . .

    I always wondered why creationists seem so oblivious to their clanging irony meters. Now you tell us: You’ve got it plugged in backwards, wired wrong. Who’d have thought it?

    Like

  3. Joel says:

    An evolutionist lecturing others about how to not fall for hoaxes. I just have to laugh.

    Oh, the irony.

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    The pledge story still appears to be a hoax. I got one e-mail response from Alan Gray, the writer for Newsblaze. He said he hoped he could find some way to verify the story, and he’d let me know.

    The story is going on a week old now. Other than the snark against teachers, public schools, principals, Clark County schools, President Obama and the Pledge of Allegiance, nothing checks out: No student, no parent, no teachers, no principal, no school, no nothin’.

    Hoax. It’s a hoax. Shame on the perps.

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  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Take a deep breath, Ted.

    Here, go read this: Why Obama’s citizenship has been demonstrated time and time again, and why people should avoid the political and historical crankery of claiming there is a problem.

    And read this: The absolute and abject failure of the case against Obama’s eligibility by political cranks.

    In short, President Obama is Commander in Chief. Military judges, as all other military personnel and as all other citizens, have a duty to follow the law, including the Geneva Conventions. Torture must stop. The Constitution must be followed, and trying to create an artificially extra-terrestrial bubble in Guantanamo as a means of avoiding the Constitution and international law must also stop.

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  6. Ted says:

    The Joint Chiefs of Staff HAVE AN ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY to stand behind Guantanamo Military Judge James Pohl UNTIL OBAMA OVERCOMES “RES IPSA LOQUITUR” BY SUPPLYING HIS LONG FORM BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND PROVING HIS ELIGIBILITY TO BE PRESIDENT UNDER ARTICLE 2 OF THE US CONSTITUTION.

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  7. Ed Darrell says:

    When the school publicly denies it I will report that too.

    But you have no problem reporting the allegations, though they are not “public,” because the allegations impugn Obama (unfairly and inaccurately), teachers, schools, news media, and the flag.

    So, with you, it’s guilty until proven innocent, even for innocents. The injustice of such reporting methods troubles me a lot. Think witch hunts. Think mobs. That’s not the American tradition.

    And that’s with your being more fair than most blogs.

    What I also mentioned in my blog was my dislike of the fact that it wasn’t unbelievable, particularly when you look at the true and verifiable stories of near Obama worship going on in schools and other places around the nation.

    So, these other unverifiable, probable hoax stories that unfairly impugn teachers persuade you it’s okay to unfairly impugn teachers?

    Respect for the president isn’t “Obama worship” to normal folks — but to the Anti-Obama Obsessed. One of the reasons other media don’t report those stories is because they’re false.

    The cult of personality created over him is unhealthy and has already lead to unrealistic expectations of what he can do.

    Where in the hell were you guys in 2000 and 2001? Why did you play dead in 2004?

    Twice I have heard or seen people on TV bragging how he is going to make them wealthy by years end. I weep for their shattered dreams by placing their trust in a politician.

    Bovine excrement. Got a link to the stories? I think you misheard.

    The worst part is that innocent children read this crap, and then we have to disabuse them of these tinfoil hat brigade notions so they can graduate from high school. It does permanent damage to many of them, alas.

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  8. LSU says:

    I chose to publish it with proper caution because if true it warrants publication.

    I don’t get suckered by hoaxes because I am extremely cynical and verify my stories. This had an attributed second level news site reporting it and that was enough to justify an initial report, and actually didn’t even require caution. The caution was part of my cynicism and my dedication to responsible and honest reporting.

    Would that more mainstream news sites operated with my level of honesty and caution. You chide me on what journalists do…had this been something equally salacious about Bush, it would have been headline news. They run with unverified stories and outright moisrepresentations of facts daily.

    Rathergate anyone?

    When the school publicly denies it I will report that too.

    What I also mentioned in my blog was my dislike of the fact that it wasn’t unbelievable, particularly when you look at the true and verifiable stories of near Obama worship going on in schools and other places around the nation.

    The cult of personality created over him is unhealthy and has already lead to unrealistic expectations of what he can do.

    Twice I have heard or seen people on TV bragging how he is going to make them wealthy by years end. I weep for their shattered dreams by placing their trust in a politician.

    While this debacle, whichever way it ends up, may be an indictment of conservatives for wanting to believe the worst of him, it should also highlight that so much sick adoration of him has already been happening, that they have set the stage for this being believable by the very fact that more unbelievable things have already happened.

    My story stands as written. It was done responsibly and fairly.

    But I don’t expect you to acknowledge that, it wouldn’t fit your thesis. Contrary to your belief, I did not get suckered by anything.

    LSU

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  9. Ed Darrell says:

    I clearly stated my caution and suspicion, and in fact I was the first to do so.

    You consider the story unverified. It slanders a principal, teachers, Nevada, the Clark County School District, and it promotes strife, but you chose to publish it even though you think it’s unverified.

    Why not do what journalists do: Don’t publish unverified rumors?

    Why not do the responsible thing, as I have done, and call the people accused for comment?

    At Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, one of the things I write about is how people get suckered in by hoaxes. This isn’t a post so much about a pledge issue as it is a post about how bloggers get suckered by unverified and unverifiable rumors.

    I regret you published as you did. Spreading gossip, while saying, ‘You know, I’m not sure about this,’ still spreads the gossip.

    You’ve confessed to everything but acknowledging what you did. I gave you credit for the skepticism you expressed. You’re welcome.

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  10. [...] First up is this site that is claiming it is a hoax.  The author says (emphasis original): The Clark County School District calls the story “bogus!!” with the exclamation points clear.  Spokesmen for the district complain they’ve been fielding calls all day, none with details.  Their check of the district’s schools turns up nothing. [...]

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  11. LSU says:

    I take exception to how you labeled my entry as having “nearly responsible skepticism”.

    I clearly stated my caution and suspicion, and in fact I was the first to do so.

    I said this before I quoted the story:

    Note: I was not able to get any secondary validation to this story which I learned about about on Ping Back, so I am monitoring this to ensure it is not a hoax, but either way, here is the story.

    And went on to say:

    The reason I am suspicious is that this bears common factors I see in spoofs and urban legends. Things like deliberately vague details about the school, the parents, the Vice Principle, the teachers’ names etc. While the parents being undisclosed makes sense if they fear retaliation, they should have no issue saying which school and other pertinent details.

    Also I find suspicious that, near as I can tell, the story has not spread to any local papers or news, at least none that I could discover, and surely if parents were in an uproar, it would have made some kind of ripple in the local media

    As an attempt to ascertain the truth I have vigorously searched all day for additional verification.

    I take my blogging seriously and always strive to verify accuracy.

    I think that I went far beyond nearly as I simply reported the story as written, and my only comments about it were based on my assessment of the cult of personality at play surrounding the president.

    I should also note that your debunking is also somewhat lacking in verifiabke references, and the Clark Co SD website has no official statement. You cite “spokesmen” and “principals” with no names or official quotes. The only quoted name is David Roddy, title unknown. And he is only quoted as saying no one has stepped forward.

    As such, I consider this still unverified, not debunked, as you failed the same smell test as the initial story.

    LSU

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  12. [...] Allegiance to Obama 29 01 2009 Update:  Some blogs are claiming that this is a hoax but the original story seems legit.  (Here’s a link to the parent’s report.)  I know [...]

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  13. flatlander100 says:

    Still wondering WHAT story? An elementary school class was led in the pledge of allegiance… no word changes, the regular pledge… facing a picture of flags that included our newly elected president. THAT’S the story?

    And we’re to believe an elementary school student claims he was thus “forced” to do this, and is so distraught, he wants to change schools? Only sane response, presuming that even that happened, is for the principal to recommend psychiatric counseling for the child involved, ASAP. Or the poor kid’s parents if they’re behind the complaint rather than their child.

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  14. geoff says:

    It kept you from seeing that both of them are unreliable.

    Oh, I knew it wasn’t a mainstream news source – I wrote that on NiceDeb’s blog yesterday. That’s why I went to the original source of the story.

    What your mini-rants about Newsmax (and the very funny business about the overhead projector) did let me see was that your reporting was unreliable, and that all of your snark and smuggery about others’ failings was misdirected.

    But all will be forgiven if you can go to the original source and discuss the story with the father who actually experienced it. That would be real fact-checking, and if you can prove that he fabricated or substantially distorted his tale, then your original point will still stand.

    And I’ll even say, “you were right, the conservative blogs got way ahead of the story.”

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  15. Ed Darrell says:

    Neither Newsmax nor News Blaze has any bona fide chops, and both tend to be tinfoil hat sales pushers.

    Is there a difference? Could either one pass a Tenderfoot board of review on the first and third points of the Scout Law?

    Regret I conflated them. It kept you from seeing that both of them are unreliable. They wouldn’t make it in Sunday school.

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  16. geoff says:

    If I weren’t laughing so hard when you say you trust Newsmax,

    If we weren’t laughing so hard at your inability to distinguish “News Blaze” from “Newsmax,” we might bother to read the rest of your comment.

    Like

  17. Ed Darrell says:

    So, with a “no comment” and two sources on the web saying that it happened—one of them being Alan Gray from News Blaze, the other from a person who left a comment on The Tree of Liberty (who has been a member there since March of 2008) claiming to be one of the parents—I’m going to go with the story.

    If I weren’t laughing so hard when you say you trust Newsmax, I’d tell you this:

    I have a problem I’d like your help with. I have a client who, along with his wife, died in a car crash in Lagos, Nigeria, three years ago. He worked for an oil company and left $100 million. I need your help in repatriating the money. Please send me your bank account number and permission to access your account electronically so I can get to work on repatriating the money right away . . .

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  18. [...] UPDATE: I contacted the editor behind the story to check on the veracity of it in an effort to help Ed figure out what the truth of the matter is. These are the replies I received: Date: Thu, 29 Jan [...]

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  19. [...] contacted the editor behind the story to check on the veracity of it in an effort to help Ed figure out what the truth of the matter is. These are the replies I received: Date: Thu, 29 Jan [...]

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  20. geoff says:

    Getting a transparency made in color is a different issue, and most schools can’t do it.

    Unless they have, say, that arcane device known as an inkjet printer.

    Like

  21. Ed Darrell says:

    There’s such a thing as color overhead projectors, that project…get this..COLOR IMAGES. Maybe you should check your facts, too.

    All overhead projectors will do color. Getting a transparency made in color is a different issue, and most schools can’t do it.

    I checked my facts. I have an overhead in my classroom (that I never use). I also use an LCD projector. I know the difference. The perpetrator of the hoax is unfamiliar with classrooms, however, and doesn’t know the difference.

    I’ve checked my facts. Now you call Clark County Schools and check yours, will you? Don’t make excuses for people who make up damaging falsehoods and spread them around the internet in order to impugn people who take care of our children and educate them for too little money, said hoaxes spread solely to raise your blood pressure. This is a free country, and people are free to tell lies at their leisure. In the Soviet Union, of course, that could have been a capital crime.

    Our president doesn’t deserve this disrespect. Our teachers, schools and children don’t deserve this sort of disrespect. You don’t deserve these attempts to sucker you in to make you angry at nothing.

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  22. Ed Darrell says:

    I am certainly curious, your debunking has no person quoted except an ambiguous school district spokesmen. When supposedly debunking something, why make the same mistakes for which you blame the original posters?

    Yeah, I worried about that. Quoting an unnamed spokesman for the district does rate a bit higher than failing to call at all, though, doesn’t it?

    Don’t take my word for it. Call the school administration yourself. Do what reporters really do. Reporters get sued when they slander people and organizations like this hoax does.

    Clark County Schools in Las Vegas Nevada. I talked to David in public affairs. Good luck.

    Like

  23. Mike says:

    I love how a “No comment” becomes an admission of guilt.

    Yeesh. Is this what passes for journalistic efforts on the right?

    Like

  24. Deb says:

    I wish you could have supplied the name of the source from Clark County school district that debunked the hoax. I would have been valuable when debating the issue with right wing extremist.

    Like

  25. flatlander100 says:

    “The principal apologized for causing offense?”

    Good lord, why? For causing “offense” because a picture of the president of the United States was also visible while the children recited the pledge of allegiance?

    Hard to have a good school with spineless administrators. Damn near impossible in fact.

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  26. flatlander100 says:

    OK, let me see if I have this straight. Kids were being taught the pledge, and to face the flag when doing so. They repeated the salute as all of us do… words were not changed to say “pledge allegiance to President Obama… ” or anything like that. The regular garden variety official pledge. And a picture of the President of the United States was visible while they were doing this.
    At its “worst” [so to speak], that’s what happened?
    And this produces a major hissy fit on the web right?
    I know school rooms where I live where pictures of the president can be found on school room walls… GW Bush for the last eight years. I presume President Obama now [though I haven't been in a class room since he was inaugurated.] I don’t recall any heated hissy fits by Democratic parents raising an on line ruckus because a picture of a Republican president was visible in the room, and even in the same direction as the classroom flag, during the pledge. If the words were changed to say “pledge allegiance to President Obama,” they’d have a point. Absent that, they don’t.

    I’d also like to know exactly what “forced” meant in this instance? The teacher told the class to rise and recite the pledge? Did the child refuse and get somehow “forced” to continue? I’ve seen nothing to suggest that. If that’s all it meant, the child can be added to the children of atheist and agnostic families whose children are “forced” to say the pledge including “under god” every day in the same way.

    These folks need to get a life. The election is over. The president is B. Obama. In some school rooms, where the sitting president’s picture is on the wall, they may well be facing the president’s picture while they say the pledge each morning. I see nothing wrong with that. If the child or the parents ask to have him excused from the daily pledge, for whatever reason, I also see nothing wrong with that. But from what we have above, the child seems not to have done that.

    This from the party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt? No wonder they’re in trouble.

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  27. Two Dogs says:

    I am certainly curious, your debunking has no person quoted except an ambiguous school district spokesmen. When supposedly debunking something, why make the same mistakes for which you blame the original posters?

    Like

  28. Mary A says:

    Wow, attack people who spread ugly rumors and look how many comments you get! There, I’ve left a comment today.

    Like

  29. UPDATE Jan 29th:

    The teachers at the school today talked to the children about flag etiquette and the meaning of the flag and why the pledge is said. The lights were left on, so the flag could be clearly seen and the children were told that they should face towards and look at the flag. The parent spoke to the Principal and the child’s teacher. The Principal said they would not show the image of the president at the same time as the pledge tomorrow. The Principal apologized for causing offense. The parent and Principal and teacher left on good terms.

    http://newsblaze.com/story/20090127224509nnnn.nb/topstory.html

    Cheers

    Like

  30. Yeah, before you go around saying that I didn’t check into to the story, think again.

    When I first read the story, I called the school district and, after the usual runaround, was told that they could not comment on the story.

    (702) 799-5000

    So, with a “no comment” and two sources on the web saying that it happened—one of them being Alan Gray from News Blaze, the other from a person who left a comment on The Tree of Liberty (who has been a member there since March of 2008) claiming to be one of the parents—I’m going to go with the story.

    And, it has yet to be proven that it DIDN’T happen. Just because the school is denying this, does not mean it is untrue.

    BTW – I just got off the phone with Alan Gray, the editor of News Blaze, and he says he was contacted by the parents for the story, and it appears to him to be true, unless the parents are lying to him—which he has no reason to suspect as their only motivation was that they just want it (the Obama worship) to stop. In fact, Mr. Gray is awaiting another call from the parents tonight (they have jobs and will contact him when they get home from work) to update the story.

    You can reach Alan Gray at (916) 608 4271 or email him at alan@newsblaze.com.

    So, yes. I DID check into the story.

    Cheers

    Like

  31. Mike says:

    I can’t believe this is being taken seriously. It’s based on the report of a single parent whose kid presumably wanted out of school, and is being reported by NewsMax, for Pete’s sake. I’d trust WingNutDaily over NewsMax, and that’s really saying something…

    Like

  32. John Paul Mitchell says:

    Ed,

    There’s such a thing as color overhead projectors, that project…get this..COLOR IMAGES. Maybe you should check your facts, too.

    Like

  33. Ed Darrell says:

    Like a septic tank, all the big clumps float to the top!

    Like

  34. jcrue says:

    woo hoo! I made the list!

    Like

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