Rush Limbaugh and right-wing media figures spread fake Ocasio-Cortez tweet about coronavirus lockdowns

Counterfeit tweet began circulating on social media

Right-wing social media accounts are now circulating a counterfeit tweet that was supposedly posted and then deleted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), allegedly calling for an extension of business closures — not from the coronavirus pandemic, but in order to defeat President Donald Trump in the November election.

The fraudulent tweet appears to have just begun spreading on Tuesday, based on a Twitter search, as well as a quick look at posts on Facebook and Instagram. Interestingly enough, the supposed screen grab depicts the message as having been posted over a month ago, on May 20, and to have been retweeted over 25,000 times — and yet, nobody seems to have learned of it until today.

Snopes quickly debunked the claim:

This tweet image was a fabrication, however, and not something posted by Ocasio-Cortez. It does not appear in her Twitter timeline, nor was it recorded by databases that capture and preserve deleted tweets.

Moreover, although the tweet was supposedly “shared over 20,000 times,” we could find no instances whatsoever of the original tweet’s having been shared or commented upon at all. It exists only as a screenshot of a faux tweet posted to a private Facebook group.

But right-wing media voices have continued to push a conspiracy theory that the severity of the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax meant to hurt Trump’s reelection chances by damaging the economy, and this latest forgery of an Ocasio-Cortez tweet will feed into that message.

On the June 23 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, the eponymous radio host read the fake tweet aloud and claimed that “a lot of governors are paying attention to her.” (Limbaugh has previously accused “the Democrat hierarchy” of ordering governors to shut down their states’ economies.)

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Citation From the June 23, 2020, edition of Premiere Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show

RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): Another quick tweet here, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she had to pull this tweet down. But she didn't pull it down before it was shared over 200,000 — 20,000 times, sorry.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this a couple, three days ago: “It is vital that governors maintain restrictions on businesses until after the elections in November, because economic recovery will help Trump be re-elected. A few business closures or job losses is a small price to pay to be free from his presidency.”

So, here's Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez urging governors to keep the lockdown on so that businesses will be shut down and ruined and people's jobs will be lost forever — because economic recovery will help Trump be elected. “A few business closures, a few people losing their jobs, small price to pay.” There you go, there you have it. And a lot of governors are paying attention to her.

Limbaugh has previously spread other online hoaxes, such as an attempt to discredit Christine Blasey Ford during the Supreme Court confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh, as well as a claim that sharks were flying through the air during Hurricane Florence.

Actor  James Woods, a prominent supporter of the president and a conspiracy theorist who often spreads hoaxes and manipulated images — including on the topic of the coronavirus pandemic — also copied the supposed Ocasio-Cortez tweet and remarked, “Of course she deleted it…,” before soon deleting his own tweet.

Another individual who reposted the fake tweet was right-wing commentator Mark Levin, who hosts a weekly TV show on Fox News as well his own radio and online shows. Levin remarked, “AOC let the cat out of the bag!” but subsequently deleted his tweet. (Way back in February, Levin said that COVID-19 was just an example of the Democrats creating “health scares” in order to gain political advantage.)

The fake tweet was also shared by Jessi Melton, a Republican congressional candidate in Florida who is among those running for Congress who have lent credence to or supported the QAnon conspiracy theory.

It might also be worth pointing out that the purported Ocasio-Cortez tweet exhibited the kind of irregular capitalization often employed by Trump — perhaps inspiring his devotees to do the same — rather than what is typically found on the representative’s own account.