It seems that a few times a week, text-based status update images like the one above are subjects of a fact check. The Facebook feature converting short bits of text into colorful, simple images is excellent for catching readers’ eyes while they scroll, but poor for information literacy, as they are rarely supported by citations in the comments.
This particular claim was an excellent example, accruing a six-figure share count in under a week. It read:
Olive Garden is funding Trump’s re-election in 2020. It would be terrible if you shared this and Olive Garden lost business.
No source accompanied the image, and only the original poster’s friends could comment. All Facebook users were able to share the post, however, and quite a few did. Had the comments been open, prospective sharers likely would have more readily seen the vast number of news items and other information contradicting its claims.
On Twitter, recent tweets by Olive Garden’s official account were inundated with replies about the rumor and boycott threats:
Which one are you?
— Olive Garden (@olivegarden) August 25, 2019
An exhaustively frequent number of replies from @olivegarden attempted to refute the fast-spreading rumor. Multiple tweets from the account responded with a statement also provided for media inquiries about the claim:
We don’t know where this information came from, but it is incorrect. Our company does not donate to presidential candidates.
Statements aside, Olive Garden couldn’t donate to President Donald Trump or any other candidate. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) forbids it entirely.
In response, some spreading prominent iterations of the rumor moved the goalposts, claiming that they in fact meant that individuals at Olive Garden or its chief executive officer were “funding Trump.” CBS News reported that that was not true either:
Open Secrets, a nonprofit that keeps track of money donated to U.S. politicians, notes that Darden Restaurants as an organization never donated during the 2016 or 2018 election cycles. However, money could’ve been donated from PACs associated with the company, or individual employees, owners or their family members.
During the 2018 election cycle, donations from those associated with Darden went to both Republicans and Democrats, Open Secrets reports. The top three donation recipients were GOPAC, a Republican group; Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida; and the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association.
During the 2016 election cycle, contributions from the company’s associates were also diverse. The top donation recipient was the DNC Services Corp., a Democratic Party entity; followed by GOPAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
A rumor that Olive Garden (a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants) was “funding Trump” in his 2020 re-election effort spread across social media. No source for that claim was ever provided. Although Olive Garden attempted to refute the rumor, it spread at a rate of thousands of posts per hour several days after it was debunked. Even if the Olive Garden chain wanted to support Trump in 2020, FEC guidelines prohibit corporations from donating to such campaigns.