Fact check: Michigan GOP legislator posted about ‘illegal invaders’ at Detroit airport. It was Gonzaga’s March Madness team

A Republican state representative in Michigan, Rep. Matt Maddock, claimed on social media on Wednesday night that he had photo evidence of “illegal invaders” arriving at Detroit Metro Airport.

One of the two photos Maddock posted on the platform called X, formerly known as Twitter, showed an Allegiant Air plane. The other photo showed three buses. Maddock wrote: “Happening right now. Three busses just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro. Anyone have any idea where they’re headed with their police escort?”

Facts First: Maddock’s claim is false. The buses were not for “illegal invaders”; they were for the men’s college basketball teams that landed at the Detroit airport to compete in the NCAA tournament known as March Madness. The only Allegiant Air flight to the airport on Wednesday was a charter flight that carried the team from Gonzaga University, which plays Purdue University on Friday.

“The four men’s basketball teams competing in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 at Little Caesars Arena arrived at DTW Wednesday evening. The buses seen in a photograph circulating online were transporting the basketball teams and their respective staffs,” the Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates the Detroit Metro Airport, said in an email to CNN on Thursday.

It’s not certain which team took the particular buses shown in Maddock’s photo. But Barrett Henderson, Gonzaga University’s assistant athletic director for communications, confirmed to CNN on Thursday that the team flew on an Allegiant plane, landed at Detroit Metro airport on Wednesday evening in the hour before Maddock’s post, and boarded buses that were waiting at the airport.

An Allegiant spokesperson said Thursday that a charter flight carrying the Gonzaga team from Spokane, Washington, was the only Allegiant flight to the Detroit airport on Wednesday. That is corroborated by an online flight-tracking website.

As for Maddock’s claim about “illegal invaders” getting a police escort? Henderson confirmed that the bus carrying Gonzaga’s players received a police escort to their hotel. Rob Anderson, sports information director at Creighton University, told CNN that their team landed at the airport on Wednesday afternoon, had buses waiting and received a police escort as well.

“I was on one of those buses,” Anderson said.

Maddock triples down

Maddock made his false claim in a month during which false and misleading claims about airplane flights involving migrants have proliferated on the political right.

Hundreds of social media users quickly disputed Maddock’s post on Wednesday, but Maddock refused to concede. He replied to one of the many people who pointed out the plane and buses were likely for NCAA basketball teams: “Sure kommie. Good talking point.”

Maddock continued to dig in on Thursday morning. He wrote a new post saying, “We know this is happening” and that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are “pouring into our country.” He added: “Since we can’t trust the #FakeNews to investigate, citizens will. The process of investigating these issues takes time.”

CNN has asked Maddock for comment.

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