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SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project

O.J. Simpson Died from Cancer, Not COVID-19 Vaccine

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SciCheck Digest

O.J. Simpson, a football star who was acquitted in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, died of cancer on April 10 at age 76. Misinformation spread online within hours of the news. Social media posts falsely claimed that the cancer was related to his COVID-19 vaccination. Simpson was vaccinated, but there is no evidence that vaccination causes cancer or that it was to blame for his death.

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Conspiracy theorists and vaccine opponents quickly spun the death of O.J. Simpson into anti-vaccination fodder, even though his death was unrelated.

Simpson, a football star who was acquitted in 1995 of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, died of cancer at age 76 on April 10, his family announced on social media the following day.

Within hours of the announcement, posts began circulating online claiming that his death was related to his vaccination against COVID-19.

Some of them advanced the widespread but false claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause “turbo cancer.”

“How’d that vaccine safety belt work out for ya OJ? #TurboCancer,” said one post on Instagram.

O.J. Simpson speaks during his parole hearing on July 20, 2017, in Lovelock, Nevada. Simpson was serving a nine- to 33-year prison term for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping conviction. Photo by Jason Bean-Pool via Getty Images.

Simpson received the COVID-19 vaccine shortly after it became available, sharing a picture of himself getting the shot in January 2021. He also advocated for others to get vaccinated.

But there’s no link between COVID-19 vaccination and “turbo cancer,” which is a made-up term used by vaccine opponents online. There has been no link between the vaccines and any kind of cancer, for that matter, including prostate cancer, which is what Simpson reportedly had.

We’ve written before about the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause “turbo cancer.” It’s worth noting that people who have cancer are at a heightened risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19, and the vaccines can offer protection.

This tactic used by social media influencers to tie high-profile deaths, such as Simpson’s, to vaccination has been happening since the COVID-19 shots first rolled out. Here are some examples that we’ve written about before:

Henry “Hank” Aaron — In the first full month that the vaccines were available, January 2021, baseball legend and civil rights activist Hank Aaron died. He died from natural causes, according to the medical examiner’s office in Fulton County, Georgia, and there was no evidence that his death was a result of being vaccinated against COVID-19. But claims falsely connecting his death to the shot swirled online.

Betty White — The actress best known for her role in the television sitcom “The Golden Girls” died at age 99 on Dec. 31, 2021. White died of natural causes, according to her agent, but various falsehoods appeared on social media about White, including claims that she died after getting a COVID-19 booster shot.

Doug Brignole — A 62-year-old bodybuilder who had heart disease died on Oct. 13, 2022, after contracting COVID-19. “Mr. Brignole’s underlying medical conditions, including heart disease from atherosclerosis would have made him less able to tolerate the effects of COVID-19, contributing to his death,” according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s report. But vaccine opponents falsely suggested that he died from the COVID-19 vaccine. He didn’t. He had been vaccinated 18 months before his death, and there was nothing linking his death to the vaccine.

Jake Flint — The country singer died unexpectedly on Nov. 27, 2022, hours after his wedding. Social media posts baselessly suggested that Flint died because of the COVID-19 vaccine, but the 37-year-old singer received his second dose more than a year before his death. His representative said Flint’s death was “not related in any way” to the vaccine.

Grant Wahl — Wahl, who was a sportswriter, died unexpectedly while covering the soccer World Cup in Qatar on Dec. 9, 2022. Purveyors of vaccine misinformation suggested that his death was caused by COVID-19 vaccination, but he died from the rupture of an aortic aneurysm that he didn’t know he had, his wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, wrote in a post on his Substack on Dec. 14, 2022.

In fact, misinformation purveyors are so quick to try to tie any death to vaccination that, in one case, they declared a death that hadn’t even happened. When Damar Hamlin, a 24-year-old safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field during a nationally televised game, conspiracy theorist Stew Peters suggested that Hamlin had “#DiedSuddenly,” a reference to the widespread, but completely unsupported conspiracy theory that COVID-19 vaccines are killing people in large numbers.

As we’ve explained before, Hamlin said his doctors told him he suffered from a cardiac arrest caused by a blow to his chest.

So, the use of Simpson’s high-profile death to perpetuate bogus anti-vaccination claims is nothing new.

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.

Clarification, April 12: We updated this story to clarify that Hamlin said his doctors told him he suffered from a cardiac arrest caused by a blow to his chest.


McFadden, Robert D. “O.J. Simpson, Football Star Whose Trial Riveted the Nation, Dies at 76.” New York Times. 11 Apr 2024.

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Simpson, O.J. (@TheRealOJ32). “Get your shot. I got mine!!!” X. 29 Jan 2021.

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