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German Media Say This Story About A Mob Setting Fire To A Church On New Year’s Eve Is False

Breitbart released a statement saying it stands by its story, and its London editor said calling the story “fake” is an example of “fake ‘fake news’.”

1. Last week Breitbart published a piece titled “Revealed: 1,000-Man Mob Attack Police, Set Germany’s Oldest Church Alight on New Year’s Eve.”

The Breitbart article said that on New Year’s Eve, the German city of Dortmund saw a crowd of “more than 1,000 men” gather, launch fireworks at the police, and set fire to the roof of St Reinold’s church, which is claimed in the article to be the oldest in Germany.

This was, according to Breitbart, one of a number of incidents that night that included civilians and police officers being attacked with fireworks, groups of “young men from North Africa” intimidating crowds, and a group of Syrians gathering and chanting “Allahu Akbar” in celebration of a ceasefire in their country.

3. The story received a considerable reaction on social media, being shared nearly 17,000 times on Facebook.

4. Many sharing the piece focused on the size of the mob, its members’ nationality, and the apparent attack on the church.

5. Breitbart heavily cited local publication Ruhr Nachrichten in its initial article, using a video from one of its reporters as evidence of claims that large groups of men were chanting “Allahu Akbar.”

The caption on the original video actually said, “Syrians celebrate the truce in their country.”

Since the publication of the article, both German authorities and Ruhr Nachrichten have dismissed Breitbart’s account of the night as “fake news.”

In an article titled “Police react to ‘Fake News’ on Dortmund’s New Year’s Eve,” Ruhr Nachrichten reported that Breitbart “distorted” its original article, exaggerating events of the night.

According to Ruhr Nachrichten, stray fireworks did hit the St Reinold’s during the evening, but the church’s roof was not alight. A spokesperson for the church told reporters there is no proof that the firework “was intentionally fired.”

Also, it’s not the oldest church in Germany.

6. Ruhr Nachrichten’s article also references a statement issued by Dortmund’s police department about the evening calling it “rather average to quiet” night for the force.

Authorities told Ruhr Nachrichten that nothing out of the ordinary was reported that evening.

The statement also said that incidents on New Year’s Eve 2016 were down comparatively from the previous year.

7. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Breitbart for comment.

Breitbart issued a correction in their article regarding the age of St Reinold’s, but said it “stands by all other substantive facts in this article.”

Breitbart London Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam also wrote a piece on the criticism, deeming it “fake ‘fake news’.”

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Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rachael Krishna at rachael.krishna@buzzfeed.com.
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