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Gowdy Didn’t Author Viral Conspiracy Theory


Quick Take

A viral Facebook post, spreading a political conspiracy theory about COVID-19, is wrongly attributed to former Rep. Trey Gowdy. Gowdy confirmed to us that he did not write the post in question.


Full Story 

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina has publicly weighed in on some issues concerning the novel coronavirus pandemic and the U.S. politics surrounding it.

But the former Republican congressman did not write a more than 400-word conspiracy theory circulating on Facebook that implies, without any proof, that the outbreak was planned to help Democrats in the 2020 election.

From Trey Gowdy,” the post begins. “I’m not saying Covid-19 isn’t real… But Pay attention folks, there’s much more going on here than what meets the eye.” 

It goes on to claim, among other things, that “there is something larger going on here driving this sudden outbreak right after Trump beats an impeachment” and that “[i]t all seems rather convenient for the nations and opponents of our current President and economy 5 months before an election.”

It’s unclear why or when Gowdy, a high-profile congressman who served from 2011 until Jan. 3, 2019, became tied to the viral text post. We found the same text repeatedly posted to Facebook as early as March 12 with no such attribution.

As the posts using his name (and image, in some cases) swirled in late April, Gowdy dismissed the attribution on his verified Facebook account.

“Just want to alert folks there is a fraudulent post attributed to me circulating on social media,” he wrote in an April 22 post. “Not the first time, likely not the last. We have enough going on in our country right now without propagating misinformation. Stay safe and strong.”

In an email to FactCheck.org, Gowdy confirmed that his statement was referring to the viral COVID-19 post.

Some versions of the post tying the text to Gowdy were updated in light of his Facebook statement.

One such post appeared on the Facebook page of Beatrice Cardenas, a Republican congressional candidate in California, and used the Gowdy attribution and an image of the former congressman. It remains up and has been shared 48,000 times, but an update was added at the bottom reading: “4/22 EDIT: several people have sent me a message posted by Trey Gowdy making a disclaimer about posts attributed to him he did not write. We are unsure who was the original author.”

Still, multiple versions of the post leave the false attribution in place — and new ones are still being published.

And other iterations have used different attributions altogether. Another post of the same text was credited to former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, even though there’s no evidence it was his work, either. One simply sourced it to an unnamed “Trump Supporter.”

This is just the latest example of a viral post leveraging a name to advance an argument.

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Garcia, Victor. “Trey Gowdy on holding China accountable for coronavirus: ‘There are lots of ways we can hold China down.’” Fox News. 18 Apr 2020.

Gowdy, Trey. Email to FactCheck.org. 1 May 2020.

Gowdy, Trey. “Just want to alert folks there is a fraudulent post attributed to me circulating on social media. Not the first time, likely not the last. We have enough going on in our country right now without propagating misinformation. Stay safe and strong.” Facebook. 22 Apr 2020.

Halon, Yael. “Gowdy: Trump should be ‘comforter in chief,’ leave medical advice to health professionals during coronavirus.” Fox News. 26 Apr 2020.