Watch out for false information about the Notre-Dame fire
The following fact checks are by FactCheckEU, a group of fact-checking outlets based in the European Union. The group was formed to fact-check election-related claims ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.
1. No, there’s no proof that the fire has been “intentionally set” or is “a terrorist attack.”
From Maldito Bulo: The exact cause of the fire has not yet been determined. The Paris prosecutor has opened an investigation for “involuntary destruction by fire,” as the cathedral was undergoing renovation works. Investigators, this Tuesday, are favoring the possibility of an accidental fire.
A tweet from Christopher J. Hale, a Time columnist, has enabled the “arson” theory to spread further. “A Jesuit friend in Paris who works in #NotreDame told me cathedral staff said the fire was intentionally set,” he wrote, adding in a second tweet: “I should note that he has zero evidence beyond what the staff said. So qualify this as an unsubstantiated rumor.”
This didn’t keep the conspiracy website InfoWars from publishing an article on the sole basis of this tweet, which has since been deleted.
Other pieces of misleading information have been circulating, claiming that the fire was the consequence of a terrorist attack. In Spain, the website Alerta Digital has published this baseless claim, reports Maldito Bulo.
2. No, no gas tanks have been found near Notre-Dame on the day of the fire.
From Maldito Bulo: Many social media accounts are sharing a real article from the Telegraph, headlined: “Gas tanks and Arabic documents found in unmarked car by Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral spark terror fears.” This story is from 2016, and is unrelated to the fire. The Telegraph has added a disclaimer on its article.
3. There was no man standing next to the fire while it started. It’s a statue.
From AFP Factuel: A conspiracy theory has spread on French social media, involving a picture in which we can see the figure of a person standing next to the fire. It is actually a statue, as you can see on this tweet. (Note: AFP Factuel has released a correction on the name of the statue)
La photo de gauche circule depuis hier soir, certains laissant entendre que cette personne est à l'origine de l'incendie de Notre-Dame.— AFP Factuel (@AfpFactuel) April 16, 2019
Il s'agit en réalité de la Vierge du trumeau du portail du Cloître, la seule grande statue de portail non détruite pendant la Révolution
4. Yes, this picture of Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower is real.
From Checknews: Some people have suggested that this picture, published on the Facebook page A.G. Photographie, was a fabricated image. It is not: it’s mostly a matter of perspective and of material, reports Checknews, which published an interview with the photographer. The picture was taken very far from the scene with a tele photo lens.
5. No, this is not the second time Notre-Dame has caught fire.
From 20 Minutes: A misleading tweet claimed that the cathedral was bombed during World War I. It was not, and the pictures on the tweet are from the Cathedral of Reims.
6. There’s no proof that the Notre-Dame fire has any link with past vandalism.
From Checknews, 15min, and Correctiv: Many people, on social media and in interviews, have been linking the fire with previous acts of vandalism against churches. There indeed had been an arson at the Saint-Sulpice church on March 17, even though the culprits and their motives are still unknown.
There was another fire in January in a church in Grenoble. The investigation is still ongoing but the Grenoble prosecutor said there was “95% chances” the fire was accidental, even though an anarchist group claimed they were responsible. There are about two acts of vandalism against churches every day in France, including satanic, neo-Nazi, anarchist, or Islamist graffitis, according to the Ministry of Interior quoted by Checknews.
The baseless link between those acts of vandalism and the Notre-Dame fire has been made, for instance, by Philippe Karsenty, a controversial local politician from Neuilly-sur-Seine’s city council, on Fox News.
A surreal moment on Fox, Shepard Smith has to abruptly end an interview with a French elected official who says about the Notre Dame fire that the "politically correct will try to tell you this is an accident" pic.twitter.com/aUwoH7YVpl— Tyler Monroe (@tylermonroe7) April 15, 2019
7. No, there was no “lone man in a yellow vest” in one of the Notre-Dame towers.
From Checknews: A video of a man walking on the southern tower of Notre-Dame has been circulating along with false claims that he was “a Yellow Vest” or “Muslim.”
It actually was a firefighter. They were already working in this tower as this CNBC stream of better quality shows. – Rappler.com