FACT CHECK: Did Barack Obama Say ‘Rooms Full Of People’ Are Dangerous During John Lewis’ Eulogy?
A viral Facebook post claims former President Barack Obama said at the funeral for the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis that “rooms full of people” are dangerous as part of an argument for mail-in voting.
While Obama did briefly mention mail-in voting and how it would be a facet of the 2020 election during his eulogy, he never referenced “rooms full of people” being unsafe as part of an argument for mail-in voting.
Obama, as well as two other former presidents and many prominent politicians, attended the July 30 funeral service in Atlanta for Lewis. During the funeral, he delivered a eulogy for the civil rights icon.
Multiple Facebook posts claim that during his eulogy, Obama “told a room full of people, that rooms full of people is (sic) too dangerous so we must mail in vote,” with some directly attributing the words “rooms packed full of people” to the former president. But the alleged comments do not appear in a transcript of the eulogy.
Obama only briefly mentioned mail-in voting, the transcript from The New York Times shows. He did not explicitly mention the new coronavirus or the pandemic during his eulogy, nor did he state that “rooms full of people” are unsafe so people “must” vote by mail.
“We may no longer have to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar in order to cast a ballot,” he said. “But even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting – by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
Obama went on to advocate for expanded voting rights, including a suggestion of “adding polling places,” according to the transcript. (RELATED: Does This Photo Show People At John Lewis’ Funeral Not Wearing Masks?)
Concerns about COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have led some states to introduce new hygiene measures and expand mail-in voting options, according to The Associated Press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance for polling places, including disinfecting surfaces frequently touched by multiple people and modifying the layout of polling stations to maintain social distancing.
The mischaracterization of Obama’s eulogy appears to have started circulating on social media the same day as the funeral.
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