VERIFY’s mission is to answer your questions and help viewers understand what’s true and what’s false. Our viewers sent us so many great questions this past year, via social media, text, email, and through our website.
From whether the U.S. would run out of diesel fuel in 25 days to if you should use hydrogen peroxide to treat wounds, the VERIFY team fact-checked hundreds of viewer questions this year.
To look back on 2022, the VERIFY team reviewed the most-read stories featuring questions that came straight from our viewers. Here’s a look at the top five stories:
In April, multiple headlines and several social media users claimed that a proposed bill in California would allow people to kill their babies up to seven days after birth. VERIFY viewer Cierra texted our team to ask if these claims were true.
VERIFY found that California Assembly Bill 2223 (AB 2223) does not allow people to kill their babies up to seven days after birth. Instead, the bill eliminates requirements for a coroner to investigate deaths related to or following suspected self-induced or criminal abortions in the state of California. AB 2223 also prohibits using a coroner’s statements on a fetal death certificate for prosecution in civil or criminal cases.
These requirements are from an earlier time when “abortion was an offense in the California Penal Code, provisions which were repealed more than two decades ago,” Farah Diaz-Tello, senior attorney and legal director for If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice, said.
AB 2223 was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 27, 2022.
On Oct. 27, Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed that “by the Monday of Thanksgiving week,” or in 25 days, “there will be no more diesel” in the U.S. Several VERIFY viewers, including Robert, asked if the U.S. would run out of diesel fuel in 25 days.
VERIFY found the metric the TV host and others were citing came from U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. For the week ending Oct. 21, EIA data showed the U.S. had 25.9 days’ worth of supply of diesel fuel.
But oil experts told VERIFY that number did not mean the U.S. would run out of diesel fuel in under a month. Instead, the metric measures the days’ worth of supply if U.S. refineries stopped producing oil and the industry stopped importing it from other countries. It’s calculated by taking U.S. inventory and dividing it by daily demand, Houston-based oil expert Andy Lipow explained.
“We will not run out of diesel in 25 days unless we simply stopped producing or importing and drew down inventory. I know of no government agency predicting the country will run out of diesel by Thanksgiving,” Lipow told VERIFY.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, agreed with Lipow. He said claims that the U.S. would run out of diesel fuel in 25 days are “completely inaccurate,” explaining that the number is “used as an industry benchmark to look at overall supply and demand balances.”
Social Security provides people with an income when they retire or can’t work due to disability. Those who are retired can typically start receiving their Social Security benefits as early as age 62.
In July, some people on social media claimed that Social Security payments would increase as much as 10% in 2023. Ruby and other VERIFY viewers asked our team if Social Security recipients would see a bigger increase than normal in their checks next year.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) adjusts benefit amounts every year to account for inflation through a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The COLA is calculated based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), an inflation gauge measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It measures the average change over time in the prices that workers are paying for a “basket of consumer goods and services.”
On Oct. 13, SSA announced that its 2023 cost-of-living adjustment will be 8.7%, the highest since 1981.
FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate during a search on Aug. 8, court records revealed.
Trump later claimed that the documents were “all declassified” in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform. Many VERIFY viewers, including Beverly and Carole, asked whether the president can declassify documents while in office.
The U.S. classification system has three levels: top secret, secret and confidential. A sitting president has wide-ranging authority to classify and declassify certain documents, but former presidents do not have authority over classification and declassification.
Current presidents can classify documents as long as they can “make a plausible argument that it is related to national security.” On the other hand, the president “doesn’t have to give any reason for declassifying” information, according to Kel McClanahan, executive director of the National Security Counselors.
“He can just say, ‘I decide that this should be declassified,’ and it’s declassified,” McClanahan said.
However, Richard Immerman, a historian and professor at Temple University, told VERIFY that presidents generally follow an informal protocol when declassifying documents.
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that is often used for cleaning, disinfecting and stain removal. It is also commonly used as an antiseptic to treat cuts, scrapes or other minor skin wounds.
Several people on social media have claimed that hydrogen peroxide should not be used to clean wounds because it can be irritating to the skin. VERIFY viewer Jehu asked whether these claims are true.
The Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and Houston Methodist all warn against using hydrogen peroxide to treat or clean wounds because it can irritate the skin.
“Hydrogen peroxide has fallen out of favor as a wound cleanser. Studies have found that it irritates the skin. It may prevent the wound from healing, doing more harm than good,” Sarah Pickering Beers, M.D., a family medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, said.
A blog post on Houston Methodist’s website explains that hydrogen peroxide can kill “normal cells within the wound, including healthy skin cells and immune cells, and slow down blood vessel formation.”
“Hydrogen peroxide is actually detrimental to wound healing. It prevents healing rather than promoting it,” said Michael Yaakovian, M.D., a surgeon and wound care specialist at Houston Methodist. "When you have an open wound, you don't have that normal skin barrier there protecting you anymore. This exposed area of tissue then becomes vulnerable to infection.”