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Kentucky Lawmaker Fixes Incest Bill, But Not Until After It Goes Viral

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Quick Take

State Rep. Nick Wilson proposed changing Kentucky’s incest law to add a ban on “sexual contact” to the existing ban on “sexual intercourse” between family members, but says he accidentally struck “first cousins” from the list of illegal relationships. Viral posts wrongly claimed Wilson wanted to legalize incest between cousins. He refiled a corrected bill.

Full Story

An apparent error in a recently filed Kentucky bill has led to posts on social media wrongly claiming that a state legislator is trying to legalize incest between cousins.

He isn’t, the legislator said.

Here’s what happened:

Republican Rep. Nick Wilson, who was a winner on the 2018 season of CBS’ “Survivor” before joining the Kentucky General Assembly last year, proposed amending the state’s statute outlawing incest so that “sexual contact” between family members would be illegal. Currently, the law bans only “sexual intercourse” and “deviate sexual intercourse.”

The bill Wilson filed Jan. 16 included that change but, in an apparent accident, it also eliminated “first cousins” from the list of illegal sexual relationships.

“During the drafting process, there was an inadvertent change, which struck ‘first cousins’ from the list of relationships included under the incest statute, and I failed to add it back in,” Wilson explained in a Jan. 17 Facebook post.

He withdrew that version of the bill and filed a corrected version on Jan. 17 with the language banning relations between “first cousins” intact.

But posts about the removal of “first cousins” from the law had already begun circulating.

For example, one post on Instagram — which misspelled the word “legalize” — claimed, “A Republican politician is trying to legalise cousin incest.” Other posts featured screenshots from news websites that had written about the bill before the corrected version was filed.

Newsweek had published a story about the bill after a TikTok video, which received more than 106,000 views. That video said, “Nick Wilson is not only supporting, but has introduced a bill that would reclassify incest in the state of Kentucky to not include your own first cousin.”

Newsweek later updated its story with a comment from Wilson describing the removal of “first cousins” as a mistake and explaining that he had refiled the bill. The outlet didn’t update its headline, though.

But the social media posts saying that the bill would legalize sexual relationships between cousins are still circulating without updates.

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. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.


Kentucky Revised Statutes — Incest. 530.020. Effective 29 Jun 2023.

Kentucky General Assembly. AN ACT relating to incest. (as introduced 16 Jan 2024.)

Wilson, Nick. Representative, Kentucky General Assembly. Facebook post. 17 Jan 2024.

Kentucky General Assembly. House Bill 289. (as introduced 17 Jan 2024.)

Bickerton, James. “Kentucky Republican Pushes Bill to Make Sex With First Cousin Not Incest.” Newsweek. 17 Jan 2024.