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‘El Chapo’ Trial Used To Spread Viral Deception

Quick Take

A viral meme is spreading false information connecting the infamous drug lord El Chapo to three major Democratic politicians.


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The notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo was found guilty in U.S. federal court on 10 counts of drug-related charges Feb. 12.

El Chapo, whose name is actually Joaquín Guzmán Loera, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25.

The three-month trial that preceded his conviction featured dramatic revelations, including stories of an attempted murder with a poisoned arepa and escaping drug enforcement officers at a safe house that had a secret tunnel under a bathtub. One reporter covering the trial called it “a federal court tele-novela.”

Still, producers of misinformation online have embroidered the case with politically tinged falsehoods.

One viral meme claims: “Drug kingpin El Chapo testified that he gave MILLIONS to Pelosi, Schiff & Killary. The Feds then closed the courtroom doors,” referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff and the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

But that’s not true.

Guzmán didn’t testify during his trial. His entire defense lasted just one day, according to the docket, and extensive media coverage at the time shows he didn’t take the stand. So, he didn’t testify to anything, let alone that he had made payments to U.S. politicians.

One person who did take the stand, Colombian drug lord Alex Cifuentes Villa, testified that among the Mexican officials who had been bribed by Guzmán’s cartel was former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. But there was no testimony about Pelosi, Schiff or Clinton receiving money.

The claim is similar to one made in another meme circulating online that we’ve written about. That one alleges that Guzmán donated $15 million to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a claim that is based on a hoax story published two years ago on a now-defunct website.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Sources

United States v. Joaquín Guzmán Loera. No. 09-00466. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. 12 Feb 2019.

Hamilton, Keegan. “The 10 Wildest Moments And Stories From El Chapo’s Trial.” Vice. 29 Jan 2019.

Feuer, Alan. “Former Mexican President Peña Nieto Took $100 Million Bribe, Witness at El Chapo Trial Says.” New York Times. 15 Jan 2019.

Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Meme Pins False Claim On Lou Dobbs.” FactCheck.org. 13 Feb 2019.