Hosts and guests on One America News have repeatedly peddled the lie that George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose. While an autopsy released by Hennepin County, Minnesota, did confirm the presence of fentanyl in his system, the autopsy -- and another one -- concluded that his death was a homicide not caused by an overdose.
The lie has been popular on the far-right media since last summer, and it was boosted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson in August 2020 and February this year. OAN, desperate for ratings and relevance after Donald Trump’s presidency, is exploiting racist lies about a homicide victim in its latest bite at the conservative media market.
OAN figures lying and misleading about the homicide of George Floyd
Real America host Dan Ball faulted the media for not covering “three different drugs” in Floyd's system. On March 9, Ball complained that the media “left out the 20-minute video where [Floyd is] in the squad car, saying that he couldn't breathe and having difficulty because of the, what, three different drugs we learned in the autopsy was in his system? It was fentanyl, marijuana, and ... meth?” In response, right-wing attorney David Wohl -- father to the criminally charged serial fraudster Jacob Wohl -- lied that “any one of those drugs could have killed him.”
Defending the officer indicted for Floyd’s murder, In Focus host Stephanie Hamill misleadingly claimed that Floyd “had fentanyl in his system, a very high amount of it, so much so that it could kill you.” While the first autopsy did find a fatal amount of fentanyl in Floyd’s system, it also concluded that fentanyl was not the cause of his death. Likewise, the second autopsy also did not list fentanyl as his cause of death.
The Tipping Point host Kara McKinney complained that “too many Republicans have taken up the cry that [Floyd] was murdered” without evidence, even though he had “a lethal dose of fentanyl.” On March 4, among other claims, McKinney read from an article claiming that “there was no evidence that Floyd's airway was literally blocked shut,” because “Floyd would have been unable to speak if pressure was directly over his airway.” Still reading, McKinney also said that “a lethal dose of fentanyl” was involved in Floyd’s death -- except, as she notably didn’t mention, it was not his cause of death.
An OAN guest claimed “there is a lot of very powerful evidence” the officer with his knee on Floyd’s back for eight minutes didn’t kill him, but the officers can’t get an “un-intimidated and non-terrorized jury” in a county “run by a mob.” Contrary to both autopsies, the guest falsely attributed Floyd’s death to pulmonary edema “because he had taken a fatal overdose of fentanyl. … Of course, he couldn’t breathe.” The guest also warned that “mob violence has prevailed in that county ever since George Floyd has died. It's about to erupt again.”
These lies are racist
There is considerable evidence of disproportionately high rates of police violence and general discrimination in criminal justice against people of color, especially Black people, in the United States. The data follows the United States’ well-defined historical pattern of official and unofficial discrimination against Black people and other people of color, including but not limited to chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws, terrorism, and disproportionate law enforcement and criminal sentencing.
Two autopsies declared Floyd's cause of death homicide. Minor differences between the two reports were widely misunderstood in the media, fueling common misinformation about Floyd's killing.
Whether by design or coincidence, these lazy, ignorant, and false denials of Floyd’s actual cause of death serve to protect the same historical patterns of racist violence.