Star rapper Earl Simmons, who went by the stage name DMX, died on Friday at age 50 after having spent a week on life support in the wake of a heart attack. And now, a number of far-right social media accounts are spreading a groundless claim that his death was linked to a COVID-19 vaccine.
To be clear: No deaths have been directly attributed to the coronavirus vaccines, but rather there is a dangerous trend of conspiracy theory-promoting social media accounts linking vaccines with any negative health events that have occurred among the literally hundreds of millions of doses that have been administered worldwide.
Some background knowledge: In many stories about purported vaccine deaths, conspiracy theorists have latched onto examples that involved preexisting conditions or unrelated illnesses, and removed this crucial context from their ensuing fearmongering. For example, a series of viral online posts back in December focused on four cases of Bell’s palsy, a condition that causes facial paralysis, among vaccine test subjects. However, these cases were found to have been “consistent with the expected background rate in the general population,” and thus unlikely to have been linked to the vaccine at all.
As for DMX’s death, initial reports from celebrity gossip site TMZ reported over the weekend that DMX had suffered a drug overdose, though his longtime attorney Murray Richman could not confirm that to The Washington Post.The celebrity gossip site MediaTakeOut claimed on Thursday, however, that an unnamed member of the rapper’s family was disputing that his heart attack had been caused by drugs, instead drawing a possible link to his having received a COVID-19 vaccine days before the medical event occurred.“He took that vaccine, and he had a heart attack,” the anonymous source was quoted. “I'm not saying the vaccine did it, but he never had a heart attack before.”
In response to the claim, popular fact-checking site Snopes put it simply: “We wouldn't consider an unnamed source from a gossip site as a reliable source of information.”Snopes pointed to MediaTakeOut’s past track record in false celebrity gossip: “After Lil Nas X dressed up as Nicki Minaj for Halloween, for example, the website published an article claiming that the musician had come out as transgender.”
But the questionable quotes from MediaTakeOut were reprinted almost exactly on Friday in the Singapore edition of the International Business Times, which attributes the quotes to a “statement” from a family member.
The claim has also been spread on Telegram by a number of QAnon influencers. Jordan Sather and QAnon John, as well as white nationalist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and on Twitter by right-wing account Rising Serpent.
Former pro baseball player and current right-wing Twitter personality Aubrey Huff, who previously declared in 2020 that he would “rather die from coronavirus than live the rest of my life in fear and wear a mask,” is also spreading the allegation that the vaccine caused the rapper’s heart attack.