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Posts Distort Facts on Floyd Pathologist’s Role in Past Cases


Quick Take

Instagram posts erroneously claim the “SAME DOCTOR” performed the autopsies on “JFK, MLK, Epstein, AND George Floyd.” The doctor referenced, pathologist Michael Baden, has connections to those four cases — but he only performed an autopsy on Floyd, as a secondary examination for Floyd’s family.


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Dr. Michael Baden is a well-known forensic pathologist whose name has appeared in connection with many high-profile cases. Most recently, he performed an independent autopsy on George Floyd on behalf of Floyd’s family.

But tweets and Instagram accounts peddling conspiracy theories are misrepresenting his role in three previous cases, falsely claiming that Baden conducted the autopsies on President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jeffrey Epstein.

“SAME DOCTOR!” reads a screenshot of a tweet shared in an Instagram post. “The autopsies of JFK, MLK, Epstein, AND George Floyd were all performed by Dr. Michael Baden.” A similar post from an account pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory shared the false claim with a caption that said, “When you want to push a narrative – it’s important to have consistent actors.”

Baden does have connections to all four of the cases mentioned, as we’ll explain, but he only conducted an autopsy on Floyd, which followed an official autopsy conducted by the medical examiner’s office of Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed May 25 during an arrest in Minneapolis. Four former police officers have now been charged in the case, including Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder while committing a felony, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office performed its autopsy the next day, May 26.

Baden and another pathologist, Dr. Allecia Wilson, were hired by Floyd’s family to conduct an independent autopsy — which they performed on May 31.

While both examinations described a homicide as a result of police restraint, the specific findings varied.

On June 1, the team representing Floyd’s family announced the preliminary findings from the independent autopsy, which found that Floyd died of “asphyxia due to neck and back pressure.” The pathologists determined that the pressure “interfered with his breathing and blood flow to the brain” and that Floyd “died at the scene.”

The same day, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office in a press release said the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” — meaning his heart stopped. It also made note of “other significant conditions,” including “[a]rteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; recent methamphetamine use.”

As for Baden’s role in the Kennedy, King and Epstein cases, the social media posts distort the facts.

Baden was the chairman of the Forensic Pathology Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. That committee in the late 1970s re-investigated the deaths of Kennedy, who was killed in 1963, and of King, who was killed in 1968.

But the actual autopsy on Kennedy was conducted by two Navy pathologists — Cmdr. James J. Humes and Cmdr. J. Thornton Boswell — as well as a U.S. Army physician, Lt. Col. Pierre A. Finck.

The autopsy on King was performed by Dr. Jerry T. Francisco, who was the medical examiner for Shelby County, Tennessee.

In the case of Epstein, the financier and sex offender who died in prison in 2019 while facing sex trafficking charges, his autopsy was done by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The office concluded Epstein committed suicide by hanging himself.

In an August 2019 statement provided to FactCheck.org and other outlets, Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city’s chief medical examiner, said “[a]t the request of those representing the decedent, and with the awareness of the federal prosecutor, I allowed a private pathologist (Dr. Michael Baden) to observe the autopsy examination. This is routine practice.”

Baden said in an interview that he was hired by Epstein’s brother to observe the official autopsy. Baden publicly disagreed with the official finding that Epstein died by suicide, saying that fractures in Epstein’s neck were suggestive of a homicide. Baden later told CBS’ “60 Minutes”: “I hesitate, as usual, to make a final opinion until all the evidence is in.”

Sampson’s office has said it stands by its determination.

So it’s false to say that the “SAME DOCTOR,” Baden, conducted the “autopsies of JFK, MLK, Epstein, AND George Floyd.” While Baden played a role in re-examining two of those cases, and observed the autopsy in another, he only actually performed an autopsy on Floyd — days after one was conducted by a county medical examiner’s office.

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

60 Minutes investigates the death of Jeffrey Epstein.” 60 Minutes. CBS News. 5 Jan 2020.

Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University. Accessed 8 Jun 2020.

Barrett, Devlin. “Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy concludes his death was a suicide by hanging.” Washington Post. 16 Aug 2019.

Bio.” DrMichaelBaden.com. Accessed 8 Jun 2020.

Crump, Benjamin (@AttorneyCrump). “NEW: Preliminary findings from independent autopsy of George Floyd’s body, conducted by Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson on May 31.” Twitter. 1 Jun 2020.

Findings on MLK Assassination.” U.S. National Archives. Accessed 8 Jun 2020.

Four officers charged in George Floyd’s death.” Hennepin County Attorney. 3 Jun 2020.

JFK Assassination Records.” U.S. National Archives. Accessed 8 Jun 2020.

JFK Autopsy Report – Appendix 9 to the Warren Commission Report.” U.S. National Archives. Accessed 8 Jun 2020.

Koerth, Maggie. “The Two Autopsies Of George Floyd Aren’t As Different As They Seem.” FiveThirtyEight. 8 Jun 2020.

Leon, Melissa. “Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy more consistent with homicidal strangulation than suicide, Dr. Michael Baden reveals.” Fox News. 30 Oct 2019.

Paybarah, Azi. “Epstein’s Autopsy ‘Points to Homicide,’ Pathologist Hired by Brother Claims.” New York Times. 30 Oct 2019.

Press Release Report.” Hennepin County Medical Examiner. 1 Jun 2020.

Statement from Attorney General William P. Barr on the Death of Jeffrey Epstein.” Press release, U.S. Department of Justice. 10 Aug 2019.

Statement from Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson. Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York City. Email to FactCheck.org. 12 Aug 2019.

Wamsley, Laurel. “Jeffrey Epstein Case: Expert Hired By His Family Suggests Doubt On Suicide Finding.” NPR. 30 Aug 2019.