Overstated Funding for Overseas Mosques

Q: Did the Obama administration spend $ 770 million restoring overseas mosques?

A: That claim is based on a misleading television news report about a 20-year funding project that ended well before Barack Obama became president.

FULL QUESTION

Did Obama administration give $ 770 million to rebuild mosques?

FULL ANSWER

A June 25 story posted by the Federalist Tribune — which admits it cannot guarantee “completeness, reliability, and accuracy” of information on its website — claims that the Obama administration spent almost $ 1 billion funding the renovation of mosques overseas.

“Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton conspired together to send seven hundred and seventy million dollars — nearly $ 1 billion to the Middle East to renovate mosques,” the story says, referring to the former president and the two people who served as his secretaries of state. Skeptical Facebook users flagged it as potentially fake news.

The claim is based on a story from Atlanta television news station WSB-TV, which reported in November 2010 that “the State Department is sending hundreds of millions of dollars to save mosques overseas.” A video of that news segment is embedded in the Federalist Tribune story, but, as we’ve written once before, that video gives a false impression about spending under Obama.

In the video, news anchor Justin Farmer says that the State Department’s Agency for International Development gave money to mosques in Cairo, Cyprus, Tajikistan and Mali. He said that the money given to the Cairo mosque was “part of” a $ 770 million program to fix the city’s sewer system.

But as we wrote back in 2011, the Cairo sewer project, which did total about $ 770 million, began in 1984 and ended in 2006. That was before Obama became president.

At the time, a WSB-TV researcher who worked on the story told us that the news station came up with “hundreds of millions” for mosques overseas by looking at funding of “both past and present projects,” including the Cairo sewer program.

We don’t know exactly how much the U.S. spent specifically on overseas mosques during Obama’s presidency — but there’s no evidence it was anywhere close to $ 770 million.

The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, a grant program within the State Department, directly “supports the preservation of cultural sites, cultural objects, and forms of traditional cultural expression in more than 100 developing countries around the world,” according to a State Department website. The program was created by Congress in late 2000 under President Bill Clinton, and the first grants were announced under President George W. Bush in 2001.

Since then, the fund, in total, has “awarded $ 67 million for over 900 projects in more than 125 countries,” according to a 2017 fact sheet from the State Department. (A department spokesman told us the total is actually $ 67.7 million.) And more than $ 16 million of that amount was awarded during the Bush administration.

Some of the money from the grant program has gone toward preservation of mosques. But temples and churches around the world have received funding, too. The program also funds projects that aren’t buildings or structures. That means the amount spent just on renovating mosques is even lower.

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. 

Sources

Obama Paid Nearly Billion Dollars In Taxpayer Money To Renovate Overseas Mosques.” Federalisttribune.com. 25 Jun 2017.

Robertson, Lori. “Funding Mosques Overseas.” FactCheck.org. 18 Mar 2011.

WSB-TV Atlanta. “Mosque Makeovers With Your Tax Dollars.” 11 Nov 2010.

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. Department of State. “Cultural Heritage Center Fact Sheet.” Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. State Department. The U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Annual 08-09 Report. Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. “AFCP Projects at World Heritage Sites.” Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. Agency for International Development. “Rescuing an Ancient Roman Tower in Old Cairo.” Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. Agency for International Development. “Rescuing a Greek Orthodox Church in Old Cairo.” Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

U.S. Agency for International Development. “USAID-Financed Restoration of Church and Mosque on Cyprus Supports Cultural Heritage and Tolerance.” Accessed 3 Aug 2017.

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