Q: Did White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer say that the president has the “legal right and power to decide how words in the English language are spelled”?
A: No. That bogus quote comes from a “satirical” article about President Donald Trump’s infamous “covfefe” tweet.
Is this true? “Spicer: ‘POTUS Didn’t Misspell ‘Covfefe’ – As Head Of State, He Has The Legal Power To Decide How English Is Spelled.’ ”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not say that President Donald Trump “is within his legal right and power to decide how words in the English language are spelled, written, conjugated and all that good stuff.” That fabricated quote comes from a satirical story describing Spicer’s response to questions about a spelling error in one of Trump’s tweets. We received some emails about the story from our readers and Facebook users flagged it as potentially fake.
At 12:06 a.m. on May 31, Trump tweeted, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” It’s likely that he mistyped the word “coverage,” and sent the tweet without correcting his mistake or finishing his thought. The tweet was deleted from Trump’s personal Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) six hours later, but that was after the internet already had begun to speculate on the meaning of “covfefe,” which Trump later playfully encouraged his followers to do.
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
The situation was amplified later that day when Spicer gave an off-camera press briefing.
Reporter, May 31: Do you think people should be concerned that the president posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night and that it then stayed up for hours?
Spicer: Uh, no.
Reporter: Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?
Spicer: I think the president and a small group of people knew exactly what he meant.
The exchange ended there, as Spicer moved on to another question and ignored several reporters who wanted to follow up about Trump’s Twitter gaffe.
However, a story published on USPoln.com carried the headline: “Spicer: ‘POTUS Didn’t Misspell ‘Covfefe’ — As Head Of State, He Has The Legal Power To Decide How English Is Spelled.” It claims that reporters were able to get a fuller explanation from Spicer, who suggested that Trump’s tweet wasn’t a mistake.
“It’s virtually impossible for a man who’s built an empire worth billions of dollars to do something like this by sheer accident,” Spicer purportedly said, before claiming that the president has the authority to change the English language.
USPoln.com, June 1: “My point is – it’s beyond whether or not it happened intentionally. Many of you may not like it, but the fact is that Donald Trump is the head of state and as such, it is within his legal right and power to decide how words in the English language are spelled, written, conjugated and all that good stuff. We have a beautiful language, but the thing about languages is – they’re living, breathing organisms. They change and they evolve along with the people who speak them, so it’s a natural progression. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘covfefe’ turns up on Wikipedia or in dictionaries in schools throughout America as early as tomorrow. Because, that’s just one of the many perks of being President of the United States. It comes with the territory and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to use it,” Spicer concluded.
Spicer didn’t say any of that.
USPoln, which is short for U.S. Political News, is a “hybrid News/Satire platform” that says its content “may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist” and “these Articles [sic] should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.”
This time, USPoln copied the fake Spicer story from Politicops.com. That site is one of several from Newslo, which uses the tagline “Just Enough News,” and describes its site as “the first hybrid News/Satire platform on the web.”
Articles published on Newslo affiliated sites, including Politicops.com, have buttons to “show facts” or “hide facts.” When readers select “show facts,” the part of the story the site deems factual is marked in yellow.
In this case, the first paragraph is highlighted because it was copied directly from a post on Rawstory.com about the real exchange from the briefing.
RawStory.com, May 31, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer drew widespread laughter from reporters when he insisted that President Donald Trump’s infamous “covfefe” tweet was not a misspelling.
After one reporter asked Spicer if “people should be concerned that the president posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night,” Spicer simply replied, “No.”
The reporter then asked Spicer why the misspelled tweet stayed up for so long.
“The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” Spicer replied, which elicited laughter throughout the room.
Reporters then tried to ask Spicer what “covfefe” actually means, but he quickly moved on to another question.
Newslo simply made up the rest of its story, including all of the other quotes it attributed to Spicer. Unfortunately, those who read the story on USPoln.com, which does not have a “show facts” button, had no idea that only some of what they were reading was real.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network.
Flegenheimer, Matt. “What’s a ‘Covfefe’? Trump Tweet Unites a Bewildered Nation.” New York Times. 31 May 2017.
@realDonaldTrump. “Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!” Twitter.com. 31 May 2017.
Golden State Times. “FULL: Sean Spicer Press Secretary Briefing Gaggle 5-31-17.” Audio. Youtube.com. 31 May 2017.
“Spicer: ‘POTUS Didn’t Misspell ‘Covfefe’ — As Head Of State, He Has The Legal Power To Decide How English Is Spelled.’” USPoln.com. Accessed 13 June 2017.
Reed, Brad. “Reporters burst into laughter as Sean Spicer insists Trump didn’t misspell ‘covfefe’ tweet.” RawStory.com. 31 May 2017.
USPoln.com. “About Us.” Accessed 13 June 2017.
Schaedel, Sydney. “Fake Dig at ‘Dumb’ Scientists.” FactCheck.org. 6 June 2017.
Vat Kens, Lea. “Spicer: ‘POTUS Didn’t Misspell ‘Covfefe’ — As Head Of State, He Has The Legal Power To Decide How English Is Spelled.’” Politicops.com. 31 May 2017.
Newslo. “About Us.” Politicops.com. Accessed 13 June 2017.
LaCapria, Kim, and Alpert, Megan. “Is ‘Covfefe’ Arabic for ‘I Will Stand Up‘?” Snopes.com. 5 Jun 2017.