Matthew Perry RIP

Molly Butler / Media Matters | Perry photo: Matthew Perry via Twitter/X

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Verified X Premium subscribers baselessly suggest Matthew Perry’s death is connected to COVID vaccines

Right-wing media and conspiracy theorists have repeatedly attributed other celebrity deaths and injuries to supposed side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

Following the unexpected death of actor Matthew Perry, blue check subscribers to X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) — who have algorithmic content prioritization and can profit from the platform’s revenue-sharing program — baselessly suggested that his death was related to the COVID-19 vaccines. This is the latest instance in which verified subscribers have flooded Elon Musk’s X with misinformation. 

  • Musk’s changes to blue check mark verification on X have allowed users to disseminate inflammatory and false information — and even prioritize and monetize this content

    • Content from paid X Premium subscribers, who are eligible for a blue check mark that previously signified a “verified” account, gets priority ranking in replies and reportedly other features. Priority ranking extends the reach and visibility of X Premium posts, with the platform announcing an additional “Premium+” paid tier that would further boost post visibility. [Twitter/X, accessed 10/31/23; TechCrunch, 11/5/22, 10/27/23]
    • Since Musk rolled out X Premium, right-wing extremists have used the pay-for-verification status to accelerate the spread of hate and misinformation. X Premium users have claimed that mass shooters were “false flag” operations, inundated the site with misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war, attacked civil rights groups, pushed conspiracy theories about 9/11, and flooded the platform with antisemitic rhetoric. [Media Matters, 11/10/22; 10/26/23, 10/9/23, 9/26/23, 9/11/23, 9/8/23]
    • Under certain criteria, subscribers to X Premium are also eligible to be paid through the platform’s ad revenue-sharing program. Premium accounts are able to make money off ads that run alongside their posts. Under this system, X has repeatedly placed ads from major advertisers next to white nationalist content and bigoted accounts. [Twitter/X, accessed 10/31/23; Media Matters, 9/27/23, 9/12/23; The Verge, 7/13/23]
  • While Perry’s cause of death has not been determined, initial reports mentioned “cardiac arrest” — which many in right-wing media have repeatedly used to baselessly claim the COVID-19 vaccine leads to “sudden death”

    • Perry, aged 54, was found dead in his home on October 28, and law enforcement said “the cause was not likely to be determined for some time.” TMZ initially reported that “first responders rushed over to Perry’s home on a call for cardiac arrest” and that it appeared Perry had drowned. [The New York Times, 10/29/23; TMZ, 10/28/23]
    • Right-wing outlets and conspiracy theorists have repeatedly focused on cardiac arrests, claiming celebrities and others “died suddenly” because of the COVID-19 vaccine. With the claim being popularized by the movie Died Suddenly, conspiracy theorists have repeatedly and falsely attributed other deaths and illnesses to the supposed side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, including celebrities such as Madonna, Damar Hamlin, and Justin Bieber. [Media Matters, 9/5/23, 3/10/23, 6/28/23, 1/9/23; Forbes, 6/30/23; Rolling Stone, 6/13/22; The Associated Press, 2/4/23]
  • Verified X Premium users immediately claimed that Perry’s death was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine

    • Self-described “proud Islamophobe” Laura Loomer shared a screenshot of Perry’s statements in support of the COVID vaccine and suggested a connection. Her post read: “Wonder if it’s COVID ‘vaccine’ related. He often talked about how he was proud to be extremely vaccinated.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23; Media Matters, 10/19/23]
    • A verified X Premium user replied to Loomer: “The vaccine cult are out in force trying to shut down any suggestion of the Matthew Perry death being vaccine related.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Right-wing influencer Robby Starbuck highlighted Perry’s support for the vaccine, claiming “it’s fair to ask that it be investigated as a potential cause of any cardiac issues.” He wrote, “While anything is possible, many will point out that Matthew was a big supporter of the COVID vaccines and even sold shirts saying ‘Could I BE Any More Vaccinated?’ so I think it’s fair to ask that it be investigated as a potential cause of any cardiac issues.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Prolific anti-vaccine misinformer and Died Suddenly creator Stew Peters shared a screenshot of one of Perry’s posts supporting the vaccine alongside the hashtag for his movie. [Twitter/X, 10/28/23
    • Right-wing commentator Joey Mannarino claimed that it was hypocritical to call for gun control following mass shootings and not question the role of the vaccine in Perry’s death. His full post read: “The Left gets mad if we ask if Matthew Perry’s death had anything to do with vaccines because it’s ‘too soon’. These are the same people who use mass shootings to call for the disarming of the American public before the blood from the bodies are even dry.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Voice of the People Media founder Kandiss Taylor shared an announcement of Perry’s death with the caption, “What??? Was he vaccinated?” In another post, she shared a screenshot of a 2021 pro-vaccine post from Perry and claimed, “Not a conspiracy when it is TRUTH. Correlation doesn’t lie,” before calling her initial post a “justified question” the following day. [Twitter/X, 10/28/23, 10/28/23, 10/29/23]
    • Conspiracy theorist account Inversionism claimed that Perry was “yet another person on the ever growing long list of celebrities that died of the vaccine.” The account added, “It's insane how many have died since 2021 and is likely going to continue increasing if the myocarditis data is accurate at the 50% 5 year survival rate. RIP.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Former member of the Australian House of Representatives Craig Kelly posted a screenshot of Perry promoting a pro-vaccine T-shirt, saying, “Sad to hear of his sudden passing at such a young age.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23
    • Right-wing influencer Mike Engleman posted a photo of Perry and asked, “Wondering if he got the jab? #DiedSuddenly.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23
    • Chris Paul, a member of the QAnon channel Badlands Media, posted: “No sooner do I say this than we get a brand new ‘protect the vaccine narrative re: Matthew Perry’ op.” The post also claimed, “They want you to know you’re ‘garbage’ for suggesting it.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23
    • Anti-vaccine account Five Times August posted, “The same people saying you can't jump to questioning if Matthew Perry died from the covid shot because there's no proof are the same people saying he probably died from drug overdose even though there's no proof.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23]
    • A verified X account questioned the nature of Perry’s death in a caption above a screenshot of one of the actor’s posts supporting vaccination. The caption read, “Are we sure Matthew Perry died of drowning and not because of the vaccine?” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23
    • One X Premium user shared a screenshot of Perry’s post supporting the COVID vaccine with a caption saying, “I wonder if Matthew Perry would un-take his vax, if he could, now. #supervaxxed #DiedSuddenly.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • A verified account dedicated to conspiracy theories speculated that the cardiac arrest was related to the COVID vaccine. The full post read: “Matthew Perry died. Emergency call was for ‘cardiac due to drowning’. Not saying it was the vaccine but I’m definitely not saying it wasn’t.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Another verified X account wrote, “Matthew Perry, another victim of the covid vax. He just happened to be in the Jacuzzi at the time of his sudden death.” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • An X Premium user posted: “We all know he was a Covid vaccine aficionado. RIP dude.. should of listened to us conspiracy theorists.” In another post, the same user shared a screenshot of Perry’s pro-vaccine post and claimed, “Not one of us pure bloods regret NOT taking the vaccine.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23, 10/29/23
    • A verified account posted, “Does anyone care to wager this gets covered up if it's vax related, though?” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • Another verified X user posted that “Friends star Matthew Perry found dead in an apparent drowning. … Vax anyone? Any guesses?” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23]
    • An X Premium account claimed, “If people who died in a car crash were counted as COVID deaths because they tested positive, then Matthew Perry's passing should be considered a vaccine related death. Sorry, not too soon.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23]
    • A verified X account with over 90,000 followers speculated about Perry’s death, asking, “Is he another victim of the vaccine?” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23]
    • Another verified user asked, “How many vax boosters did he have?” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23
    • Another X Premium account simply posted; “Three words: Matthew Perry, VACCINE!” [Twitter/X, 10/28/23]
    • One verified user claimed that “realizing he likely died as a result of the damned Covid vaxx is heartbreaking and tragic.” They went on to say, “Unless an autopsy demonstrates a LONGTERM serious heart condition, in which case I'll delete this tweet, 54-year olds, even those with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, rarely drop dead from heart attacks.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/23]
    • Another verified X account wrote: “Matthew Perry being thrown under the bus rather than admit what happened. Scumbag media protecting the narrative one vaccine death at a time.” [Twitter/X, 10/29/30]