Our Most Popular Articles in 2021


On the last day of the year, we look back at the most popular articles that we posted to our website in 2021.

For the second consecutive year, COVID-19 tops our list. Seven of the 10 most popular articles were about the pandemic.

Here’s the list, in order:

Timeline of U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, were both eager to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end what Biden referred to as “America’s longest war.” In this story, we reviewed many of the key diplomatic decisions, military actions, presidential pronouncements and expert assessments of the withdrawal agreement signed by the Trump administration and carried out by the Biden administration that ended the 20-year war.

Idaho Doctor Makes Baseless Claims About Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines

In a speech at a forum hosted by Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Dr. Ryan Cole baselessly claimed mRNA vaccines cause cancer and autoimmune diseases. When we asked Cole to provide support for his claims, he referred us to a 2018 paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery that reviewed trials and studies of various, earlier mRNA vaccines. But that paper doesn’t support his statement, and its lead author told us there is no evidence mRNA vaccines cause such ailments. En español.

The Wuhan Lab and the Gain-of-Function Disagreement

Man enters a store in Queens, New York. Photo by Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly sparred over a $600,000 federal grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, rekindling calls for an investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2. At issue was whether the National Institutes of Health funded gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses that could have caused a pathogen to become more infectious to humans and, separately, if SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — transferred naturally from bats to humans, possibly through an intermediate host animal, or if a virus, a naturally occurring one or a lab-enhanced one, was accidentally released from the Wuhan lab. The Kentucky senator asserted that NIH funded gain-of-function research; Fauci denied it. The answer to the question of whether the NIH did or didn’t depends on whom you ask and their definition of gain-of-function. In this story — and our follow-up story “The Facts – and Gaps – on the Origin of the Coronavirus” — we looked at the available evidence at the time. En español.

Viral Posts Misrepresent CDC Announcement on COVID-19 PCR Test

Scientists consider polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests a highly reliable tool for diagnosing COVID-19. But social media posts misrepresented a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement regarding the eventual discontinuation of its own test, falsely claiming the government has conceded that PCR tests aren’t reliable. En español.

Irish Professor Makes Unfounded Claims About Long-Term Effects of mRNA Vaccines

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines authorized for use were found to be safe and effective in clinical trials and real-world conditions. A professor in Ireland baselessly claimed in a viral video that those who get the vaccines will die as a result within several years. There is no medical evidence for her claims. En español.

COVID-19: The Unvaccinated Pose a Risk to the Vaccinated

In this Ask SciCheck, we answer the question: How do people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 pose a risk to people who have been vaccinated? En español.

Magnet Videos Refuel Bogus Claim of Vaccine Microchips

The ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are publicly available. Yet a false claim that the vaccines contain microchips received renewed attention through a spate of videos of people claiming that magnets stick to their arms after vaccination. Experts say none of the ingredients would cause this supposed effect. En español.

Pfizer CEO Got the COVID-19 Vaccine

Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, posted a photo of himself getting the second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 10. But an Aug. 5 tweet from Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson misleadingly suggested that he isn’t vaccinated. She updated the tweet hours later, acknowledging the CEO’s March post — but after her claim had spread, uncorrected, on other social media. En español.

Republicans Mischaracterize Proposed Financial Reporting Requirement

To help detect unreported income and narrow the gap between federal taxes collected and owed, the Biden administration proposed expanding annual reporting requirements for banks and other financial institutions to include the total amounts of money flowing in and out of all business and personal accounts worth at least $600. But the proposal, which had been considered by congressional Democrats as a way to offset some of the cost of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, had been mischaracterized by several Republican critics who have falsely claimed or suggested that it would require the details of individual transactions or purchases to be reported to the IRS. The Senate Democrats later outlined a revised proposal, which had the support of the Biden administration, that would raise the reporting threshold to $10,000 in annual deposits or withdrawals and exempt certain forms of income. But the House dropped the proposal entirely from its version of the Build Back Better legislation.

Rittenhouse Testified He Drove Himself to Kenosha Without Weapon

Kyle Rittenhouse testified in court that he drove himself from his residence in Antioch, Illinois, to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 24, 2020, the day before he shot and killed two men at a protest that became violent. According to court testimony and police records, the AR-15 style rifle that he says he used during confrontations with the men had been stored at a friend’s house in Kenosha and was not with him in the car when he made the roughly 20-mile drive to Wisconsin from his home state. But in a Nov. 14 CNN interview, Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California falsely claimed that Wendy Rittenhouse, Kyle’s mother, drove her armed son across the Illinois-Wisconsin border. 

Thanks for reading FactCheck.org in 2021. Have a happy and healthy new year!

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