Fact check: Viral post claiming Dems didn't wear masks at John Lewis' funeral uses photo from 2015

Antonio Fins

The claim: Democrats attending John Lewis’ funeral in Atlanta did not wear face coverings

A viral meme on Facebook shows a photo with former President Bill Clinton seated next to the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson in what appears to be a house of worship. The writing on the photo states “July 30, 2020 Funeral” and then in capital letters “NOT A MASK IN SITE (sic)” and “IS ANYONE AWAKE YET?”

July 30 corresponds to the funeral in Atlanta of Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a leader of the civil rights movement who served in Congress for 33 years before his death on July 17 from cancer.

The posts alleged hypocrisy on the part of Democrats for not wearing masks to protect against coronavirus.

USA TODAY has reached out to Facebook user David Winter, among the many users who have shared this meme publicly, for comment. 

People attend a funeral service for Helen Burns Jackson at Springfield Baptist Church on Monday, September 14, 2015.

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Digging into the claim

The photo used in the meme in question was not taken at Lewis’ funeral. Instead, the photograph was snapped by photographer Heidi Heilbrunn of the Greenville News in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 14, 2015, during a funeral service for Jackson’s mother, Helen Burns Jackson.

Lewis’ funeral in Atlanta was aired nationally on live television by several networks. Viewers could clearly see mourners wearing face coverings and seated in a socially distanced fashion.

Photo galleries also showed images of mourners wearing masks and seated apart from each other.

The mourners present included top Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wore a face mask throughout the service. So did former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who only removed their face coverings when at the podium to eulogize Lewis.

Members of Congress wait for the program to start at the funeral service for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, July 30, 2020.

Our ruling: False

The post is FALSE. It used a photo of an event from five years ago to convey a false claim that is clearly debunked by photos and video of the funeral in Atlanta for John Lewis.

Our fact-check sources:

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