A baseless conspiracy theory suggesting President Donald Trump was intentionally infected with the novel coronavirus at the first presidential debate has received hundreds of thousands of views and shares on social media platforms and has also spread on far-right message boards.
Shortly after midnight on October 2, Trump tweeted that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcement came after one of his aides, Hope Hicks, had also tested positive for the virus. While it is not known exactly how Trump contracted the virus, the president is one of multiple people who have tested positive after attending the September 26 Supreme Court nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden.
Shortly after midnight on October 5, a fringe account tweeted a video of a man at Trump’s podium before the September 29 debate, writing, “Man wipes Trumps podium where he puts his hands, and wire connected to his mic? Corona virus on rag? Who is this man?” The video also included a voiceover speculating if the man had “coronavirus on this napkin or rag,” adding that “we need to find out.” The video has earned more than 250,000 views.
The conspiracy theory video has also made its way to Facebook and Instagram, where a version earned hundreds of views.
It has spread on far-right message boards as well. On 4chan’s “/pol/” message board, a user claimed the man in the video was a “Trump assassin caught in the act” and “was 100% an assassination attempt.” The thread received a significant number of posts in response. On TheDonald.win, the new forum for the now-banned subreddit “r/The_Donald,” a user earned more than 1,000 “upvotes” on a post with the video that claimed “A Man in a SUIT with Cowboy Boots WIPED SOMETHING all Over TRUMP'S PODIUM and MIC BEFORE DEBATE ... DID NOT WIPE BIDEN'S PODIUM.” And on the subreddit “r/conspiracy,” a user linked to the video, asking, “Was this an assassination attempt?”