Facebook posts mislead on historical connections between four former presidents

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Facebook posts claiming to highlight historical connections in the lives and deaths of four presidents — two from Africa and two from the United States — have resurfaced online. But the claims they make are partly false: some of the purported historical “connections” are inaccurate. AFP Fact Check investigates them.

This Facebook post begins by drawing similarities between former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe and South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaigner, and former statesman, Nelson Mandela.

“Mandela Died on Thursday 5 September. Mugabe Died on Thursday 5 September (sic),” reads the post, which then draws comparisons between two former American presidents – Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

Screenshot of the partly false post, taken on October 10, 2021

The same post was shared in a Facebook group in Zambia with more than 350,000 members. In 2020, the claim was published in this Nigeria Facebook group with more than 150,000 members.

But some of the purported historical similarities are inaccurate.

Mandela and Mugabe

The first claim is that Mugabe and Mandela died on “Thursday 5 September”. In fact, Mandela died on December 5, 2013, while Mugabe’s death was confirmed nearly six years later, on September 6, 2019.

The second claim incorrectly states that both Mandela and Mugabe’s second wives were named Grace, remarking: “Wow! History can be a comic.”

While Mugabe’s second wife was indeed Grace (see here and here), Mandela’s second spouse was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (full name at birth Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela), and his third wife was Graça Machel (see here and here).

Lincoln and Kennedy

The post also attempts to draw similarities between the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and the 35th, John F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1865 and 1963, respectively.

One claim purports that the secretaries of Lincoln and Kennedy were named Kennedy and Lincoln, respectively. Though it is recorded here that Evelyn Lincoln was one of Kennedy’s secretaries, almost a century earlier Lincoln’s two secretaries were John G. Nicolay and John Hay (see here and here).

Another claim alleges that Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and Kennedy’s killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, were born in 1839 and 1939, respectively. However, Booth was born in 1838.

According to the post, a “week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland” and “a week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe”. This is incorrect. Actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead in 1962 (see here, here and here), one year before Kennedy’s assassination.

There have been previous attempts to draw parallels between the lives and deaths of the two US leaders (see here and here), some of which have been used to create conspiracies.