FBI didn't say 'Pizzagate' is real; post distorts details of Texas arrest | Fact check

The claim: FBI announced ‘Pizzagate’ is real

A Nov. 24 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a Washington pizza parlor at the center of a frequently debunked conspiracy theory.

"The FBI just announced this week that 'Pizzagate is real,'" reads part of the post's caption. "Pedophiles connected to an elite pedophile ring are actively being pursued and arrested."

The post was liked more than 700 times in five days. A similar version was liked more than 1,000 times before it was deleted.

More from the USA TODAY Fact Check Team:

Our rating: False

An FBI spokesperson says the bureau made no such announcement. The claim originated on a website known to spread misinformation.

No statements from FBI about ‘Pizzagate’

"Pizzagate" refers to a conspiracy theory propagated by the far-right conspiracy movement QAnon that first emerged ahead of the 2016 presidential election. It asserted Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking Democrats were involved in a child sex trafficking ring operating out of a pizza restaurant in Washington.

News outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, have repeatedly debunked the conspiracy theory.

The text in the post's caption is nearly identical to the first paragraph of a story posted Nov. 23 by The People’s Voice, a website known to publish misinformation. That story cites the Nov. 13 arrest of a Texas man and claims the FBI made the purported announcement about “Pizzagate” in court documents related to his arrest.

The man was arrested on child pornography charges and used the term “pizza” as a code word for child sexual abuse materials, according to the federal complaint against him.

But the FBI did not make any announcements that legitimize the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, said Connor Hagan, a spokesperson for the bureau’s office in Texas that handled the man’s arrest. The federal complaint does not mention "Pizzagate" or anything about a wider sex trafficking conspiracy.

Fact check: False claim Pope Francis, Clinton pushed depopulation as climate solution

“FBI Houston has made no statements regarding ‘Pizzagate’ related to this case,” Hagan told USA TODAY in an email.

No reputable media outlets have reported that the FBI confirmed the validity of the conspiracy theory. The headline in the post placed the phrase "Pizzagate is real" in quotation marks, but there is no credible evidence that anyone from the FBI actually said it.

A search of the website where the FBI posts its news releases showed the word “pizza” appeared in two announcements, both in 2017. One detailed the sentencing of a North Carolina man who opened fire inside the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in 2016 and claimed he was rescuing child sex slaves; the other outlined the guilty plea from a Louisiana man who, three days after that shooting, threatened a different Washington pizzeria.

The term “cheese pizza” has been previously used on 4chan and other online forums as slang for “child pornography,” The New York Times reported in 2016.

The People's Voice, previously known as NewsPunch, has repeatedly published fabricated stories, many of which USA TODAY has debunked. USA TODAY has also debunked several claims rooted in “Pizzagate,” including those asserting that celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey were on house arrest for child sex trafficking and that Vice President Kamala Harris was involved in the conspiracy theory.

USA TODAY reached out to The People’s Voice and to the social media user who shared the post but did not immediately receive responses.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or e-newspaper here.

USA TODAY is a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network, which requires a demonstrated commitment to nonpartisanship, fairness and transparency. Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Meta.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Post baselessly claims FBI said 'Pizzagate' is real | Fact check