After New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stepped down amid allegations that he abused women, a story without any evidence circulated on Facebook that he covered up a sex cult.
"Eric Schneiderman helped NXIVM sell child sex slaves to the Clintons," said a May 9 headline by the NY Evening News, a website that has sections on conspiracies and UFOs. The story attributed the information to Your News Wire, which frequently posts fake news.
Facebook flagged this story as part of its efforts to combat false news and misinformation on Facebook's News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) The story smashes together an actual federal criminal case against organizers of a sex cult to falsely allege that it involves Schneiderman selling children to the Clintons.
Schneiderman resigned May 7 following a report by The New Yorker that four women accused him of physical assault. He denied the allegations.
The NY Evening News story said, "Schneiderman used his position as Attorney General to cover-up the crimes of NXIVM – a cult recently exposed as selling child sex slaves to the Clintons."
The criminal case about the sex cult NXIVM (pronounced Nex-e-um) is real, although the NY Evening News story makes up details. We previously rated a claim that defendant Allison Mack, an actress on the TV show Smallville, sold sex slaves to the Clintons as Pants on Fire.
Mack and co-defendant Keith Raniere face real federal charges for sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy and forced labor conspiracy. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said that Mack recruited women to join what was portrayed as a female mentorship group that was led by Raniere. The victims were then exploited, including sexually.
We searched news accounts for connections between Schneiderman’s office and the case.
In March, Schneiderman’s office filed a court case asking a judge to order Brandon B. Porter, a medical doctor who conducted controversial research on behalf of NXIVM, to turn over records related to studies. The case also asked Clare F. Bronfman, heiress to Seagram and NXIVM operations director, to turn over records. But Schneiderman’s office suspended the state investigation after the March 25 arrest of Raniere on federal charges.
A 2017 story by the Albany Times-Union said that law enforcement had fielded complaints about NXIVM for years and that Schneiderman’s office had begun to examine dealings.
"The new interest comes after multiple law enforcement agencies, including Schneiderman's office, had for years brushed aside the concerns from Raniere's critics and others about the murky inner workings of NXIVM, which one expert has characterized as an 'extreme cult,' " the Times-Union wrote.
We read federal court records and news articles about the case and found no evidence that Schneiderman helped "NXIVM sell child sex slaves to the Clintons." This mash-up of headlines in the news has no basis in fact. We rate this headline Pants on Fire.