Fringe media are furiously trying to absolve the white nationalist who allegedly killed Heather Heyer

Trolls and anonymous message boards are pushing the story that she died from a heart attack and health issues -- and not because she was hit by a car

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

White nationalist and fringe media figures are trying to absolve Heather Heyer's alleged murderer by suggesting she died of a heart attack caused by health issues, not from a car running her over.

On August 12, during a gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, James Fields, a man with white nationalist sympathies, reportedly drove his car into a crowd of protesters, injuring at least 19 and killing Heyer. Fields has since been charged with second-degree murder.

On September 5, white nationalist and anti-Semitic writer Hunter Wallace wrote on his blog Occidental Dissent that Heyer’s mom “said in an NBC interview she died of a heart attack” and he seemed to blame Heyer’s weight, rather than Fields explicitly, for her death. He wrote, “We can’t find any information about Heather Heyer’s injuries or an autopsy. She does seem to be a very large woman though. My guess is that she was at least 250 pounds lying on her back in 90 degree heat. It is reasonable to wonder if her health had something to do with her death.” Wallace added, “To my knowledge, no else has died in these incidents when protesters are in the street and get run over. It happens quite frequently.” The claim echoes what Andrew Anglin of the neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer (who had attacked Heyer by calling her an “overweight slob with no children”) had told The Washington Post weeks earlier, when the paper reported that “Anglin disputed authorities’ conclusions, suggesting instead that Heyer may have suffered a heart attack at the scene.”

Other fringe and white nationalist media figures have since run with Wallace’s claim, with some implying it clears Fields of murder charges. Fake news purveyor Before It’s News republished Wallace’s blog post, and white nationalist podcast host James Allsup tweeted that Heyer’s mother and “medical personnel” “confirmed” Heyer died of a heart attack, adding that Wallace’s post “looks to be very well sourced.” A YouTube account called Rogue Rebel that claims to be “dedicated to exposing the left” posted a video claiming that “Heather heyer did not die as a result of being ran over, but from a massive heart attack.” Daily Stormer writer Andrew Auernheimer, who is also a hacker known as “weev” and who previously threatened CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, wrote on Gab, a social media platform favored by white nationalists, that Heyer’s supposed heart attack meant “murder charges on Fields gotta be dropped, and the public has to get told it's because Heyer was a fucking fat cow.”

Additionally, Wallace’s blog and the Rogue Rebel YouTube clip were picked up by Reddit forum “r/The_Donald” and by 4chan’s and 8chan’s “politically incorrect” message boards (commonly referred to as /pol/), forums known for helping far-right trolls and fake news purveyors spread misinformation. On Reddit, users claimed that Heyer “died of a heart attack, because she was obese and had some stress from the incident” and that the “corrupt” mainstream media were hiding it. On 4chan and 8chan users linked to websites like Infowars and VDare, urging others to “email these sources” supposed proof of the claim. They also wrote that the “info definitely needs to be made available to Fields' defense” because Fields “is only guilty of Reckless driving, that's about a 500.00 fine and no jail time.”

This is not the first attempt by those in the far-right and fringe to distance themselves from the gathering and subsequent violence in Charlottesville. Fringe media have previously suggested that white nationalist Jason Kessler, one of the organizers of the protest, was some kind of liberal spy who set up the event to embarrass conservatives.