FACT CHECK: A Viral Image Wildly Mischaracterizes Which GOP Congressmen Were Voted Out In 2018

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Many people on Twitter said that a viral image of congressmen with red “X’s” over their faces showed Republicans who were voted out of office in the 2018 midterm elections.

“The X’s are those that supported the repeal of the ACA and who in return got voted OUT of office,” one user tweeted Sunday.

“Everyone with an X has either been voted out or didn’t run because they knew they would be,” another user tweeted Saturday.

Verdict: False

A majority of the Republican House members pictured with an “X” over their faces were re-elected in 2018. Several other representatives did not seek re-election, and a couple of those marked with an X were not members of Congress.

Fact Check:

The photo shows House Republicans at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence after the House passed the American Health Care Act on May 4, 2017.

The bill, which would have overhauled and replaced portions of the Affordable Care Act, later failed in the Senate in July 2017 despite efforts to narrow its scope. The late Sen. John McCain surprised senators on both sides of the aisle when he cast the deciding “no” vote. Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to revive a repeal bill that September.

People on Twitter said that the red X’s in the viral photo illustrated the “blue wave” of House seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat in 2018. The placement of X’s, however, is wildly inaccurate.

A Daily Caller News Foundation review of the 34 individuals with red X’s over their faces revealed that more than half of the Republican members of Congress in question were re-elected in 2018. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Texas Reps. Michael Burgess and Jodey Arrington, Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama and Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia were among those pictured who won their districts by more than 20 percentage points.

Some of those marked with red X’s decided not to run for re-election, so they were not “voted out.” House Speaker Paul Ryan decided to retire from Congress, but a Republican won his seat in 2018. Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida left their seats to run for governor in their states. Pearce lost his gubernatorial race and DeSantis won his.

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold was also not voted out. He resigned from Congress in April following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. Republican Rep. Michael Cloud won a special election in June to replace Farenthold and was re-elected during the November midterms.

A couple of those marked with an X were not members of Congress, and therefore not up for re-election: Seema Verma, a Trump appointee who is the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Tom Price, the former secretary of health and human services. Price resigned later in 2017 after news stories revealed that he took chartered flights at taxpayer expense.

Only a handful of those marked with a red X lost their re-election bids. Democrat Katie Porter defeated Rep. Mimi Walters in California, and Rep. Tom MacArthur lost to Democrat Andy Kim in New Jersey. Democrat Anthony Brindisi claimed victory over New York Rep. Claudia Tenney, but Tenney had not conceded as of Wednesday morning. Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina lost his Republican primary contest, but Republican Mark Harris won the seat in 2018.

The image also failed to place an X over the faces of two Republicans in the photo who lost their seats to Democrats in 2018. Rep. Keith Rothfus lost to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb after redistricting in Pennsylvania pitted two incumbents against one another, and Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop lost to Democrat Elissa Slotkin.

The image gained traction after Nicholas Kitchel, who works for the progressive non-profit group the Hub Project, shared it on Twitter Saturday. His tweet got over 27,000 retweets and 66,000 likes.

Several journalists, a congressional staffer and Republican Rep. Ryan Costello pointed out the many inaccuracies in the image. “Amazing. This photo illustration … is actually more incorrect than correct,” Politico senior writer Jake Sherman said in a tweet Saturday.

Kitchel deleted the tweet later the same day. “While a number of GOP Members of Congress who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act are crossed out in this image, it has been pointed out that there are several errors, so I have taken it down,” he said.

The origin of the image is not clear. Kitchel did not respond to an inquiry from TheDCNF.

So far, 41 House districts have flipped from Republican to Democrat as a result of the 2018 elections. Three races remain undecided.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter