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Hoax Alert

Fake News: Bernie Sanders Did NOT Say Christianity Is An Insult To Muslims

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Fri, 19 Apr 2019 09:41:27 Z)

Did Bernie Sanders say Christianity is "an insult to muslims"? No, that's not true: an old hoax story from 2017 based on a Senate hearing keeps popping up but as the record shows Sanders was only calling a statement from White House Deputy Budget Director nominee Russell Vought "insulting" to "over a billion Muslims" and he was not refering to Christianity. The false story seems to be a favorite among operators of foreign-run clickbait websites who keep using it to attract outrage clicks in order to cash in on advertising.

The story went viral again in March 2019 via an article (archived here) pubished on a site named Trump Maga Reports under the title "Bernie Sanders Says Christianity Is An Insult To Muslims". It opened:

Bernie Sanders has just proven once and for all how biased he truly is against Christians. He proved that once again recently when he violated a Constitutional mandate that you are not allowed to apply a religious test when running for office.

The Vermont senator criticized White House Deputy Budget Director nominee Russell Vought for his Christian beliefs in relation to Islam. Sanders declared he would oppose Vought on those grounds, basing his decision on an article Vought wrote in defense of Wheaton College.

"This is the fundamental problem," Vought wrote. "Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned."

"It is hateful," Sanders said of the writing. "It is Islamophobic. And it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world."

Screenshot of http://trumpmagareports.blogspot.com/2019/03/bernie-sanders-says-christianity-is.html

The full text of the hearing can be read here:

- NOMINATION OF RUSSELL T. VOUGHT, OF VIRGINIA, TO BE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET

Senate Hearing 115-93] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office] S. Hrg. 115-93 NOMINATION OF RUSSELL T. VOUGHT, OF VIRGINIA, TO BE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET ======================================================================= HEARING & EXECUTIVE BUSINESS MEETING BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET UNITED STATES SENATE ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS FIRST SESSION __________ June 7, 2017--HEARING ON THE NOMINATION OF RUSSELL T.

The relevant section comes from the opening statement by senator Sanders:

Which brings us to Mr. Vought, the nominee of today. On January 17, 2016, Mr. Vought wrote an opinion piece for a publication called The Resurgent in which he said, and I quote:

``Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.''

When Mr. Vought was asked in writing if he considered this statement to be Islamophobic, hateful, and offensive, he responded, and I quote--this is Mr. Vought:

``No. I respect the right of every individual to express their religious beliefs. This statement, which is taken out of context, was made in a post designed to defend Wheaton College, my alma mater, for its decision to insist that one of its professors maintain its statement of faith. I specifically wrote it with the intention of conveying my viewpoint in a respectful manner that avoided inflammatory rhetoric.'' End of quote from Mr. Vought.

The professor who Mr. Vought is referring to is Larycia Alaine Hawkins, who became the first female African American tenured professor at Wheaton College in 2013, serving as an associate professor of political science.

Apparently, the crime that Mr. Vought found so objectionable was a 2015 Facebook post that Ms. Hawkins wrote, stating, and I quote--this is from Ms. Hawkins, the professor of political science:

``I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the Book. And as Pope Francis stated, we worship the same God.''

Mr. Chairman, in my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.

(our emphasis)

It is pretty clear Sanders is speaking about Mr. Vought's statement here, not about Christianity. Nowhere else in the transcript of the hearing is there any other mention of the word "insult" or "insulting".

Stories falsely claiming Sanders called Christianity an insult to muslims started popping up soon after the hearing. This is one of the oldest examples we could find in the Internet Archive:

Bernie Sanders Says Christianity Is An Insult To Muslims - cbinfo24.com

Bernie Sanders has just proven once and for all how biased he truly is against Christians. He proved that once again recently when he violated a Constitutional mandate that you are not allowed to apply a religious test when running for office.

The site that published it was later found out to be part of a huge network of Macedonian fake news sites uncovered during a joint investigation of Lead Stories and Nieuwscheckers:

Macedonian Fake News Network Shuts Down Dozens Of Websites After Joint Investigation By Lead Stories & Nieuwscheckers | Lead Stories

Back in November of 2018 fact checking sites Lead Stories and Nieuwscheckers collaborated to map a network of Macedonian fake news websites that had published thousands and thousands of articles since 2016, mostly stolen from other places, many of them fake and often promoting hate, racism or conspiracy theories.

But here we are, two years later, and the same false quote is still being used to drive traffic to websites trying to rake in advertising dollars by cashing in on false outrage. Don't fall for it: if you don't agree with what Bernie Sanders has to say there are probably better ways to oppose him that don't involve sending traffic to scammy websites repeating lies to cash in that ad money.

About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

About Lead Stories

Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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