Shaoe if texas in bright pink and imade of burning trees over blue background

Andrea Austria/Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Conspiracy theories about record-breaking Texas wildfire spread online after Biden visited the state's border

Social media users baselessly blamed government space lasers and federal “retaliation” for sparking the blazes

  • Conspiracy theorists and right-wing influencers are attributing unprecedented wildfires in Texas to a government attack using so-called directed energy weapons (DEWs), while others say the fires were an act of “retaliation” from the federal government motivated by an ongoing stand-off over migration at the state’s southern border. Dozens of videos and posts falsely insist that the claim is backed up by remarks President Joe Biden made during his February 29 visit to Brownsville, Texas.

    While discussing how “up-to-date standards and building codes” could help reduce property damage from wildfires, Biden said, “If you fly over these areas that are burnt to the ground, and you see in the midst of 20 homes that are just totally destroyed, one home is sitting because it has the right roof on it.”

    Claims that Biden was somehow suggesting that certain roofs are immune to the impacts of DEWs while other structures were intentionally targeted in the fires are proliferating on X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok, along with related conspiracy theories suggesting the fires were payback for the state defying federal border policy. 

  • In 2024, climate change is already fueling extreme weather all around the country — including the Texas fires

    • Texas is currently experiencing the largest wildfire in state history. The Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned over 1 million acres and was 74% contained as of March 7. It is one of at least three wildfires currently burning the state’s Panhandle region, destroying homes and agricultural land as farmers struggle to evacuate livestock. At least 7,000 cattle and two people have died. [CNN, 3/1/24; The New York Times, 3/7/24; CBS, 3/7/24; Newsweek, 3/7/24]
    • The exact cause of the fire is currently under investigation, but Xcel Energy has acknowledged “that its facilities appear to have been involved in an ignition of the Smokehouse Creek fire.” According to The Texas Tribune, “A lawsuit filed last week by homeowners accused the power company of neglecting to maintain power lines.” [The Texas Tribune, 3/7/24]
    • The Smokehouse Creek Fire was supercharged by hot, dry, windy conditions linked to climate change. CNN wrote: “Its severity was due to a perfect storm of environmental factors: highly flammable grasses and strong winds combined with record-high temperatures and dry conditions — the kind of extreme weather often exacerbated by climate change.” [CNN, 3/1/24]
    • This February was likely the hottest on record, featuring “the highest global average temperature ever recorded for that month, thanks to climate change.” The unusually warm month followed a “lost winter” in the Midwest and extreme rainfall and flooding on the West Coast. [Reuters, 2/29/24; Axios, 3/4/24; NPR, 2/6/24]
  • A conspiracy theory about blue objects being immune to so-called government weapons has been brewing since the Lahaina fires

    • For years, conspiracy theorists maintained that wildfires have been set intentionally by the government using “directed energy weapons,” which are supposedly in space. The idea resurfaced on social media in 2023 after wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, killed over 100 people. [Vice, 8/15/23; The New York Times, 2/13/24]
    • Directed energy weapons are real, but there is no evidence that they’re being used to start wildfires. It has been widely acknowledged that DEWs such as lasers and high-powered microwaves are being researched and invested in by militaries around the world. However, those technologies aren’t being used at scale, and experts say they could not have been used without being noticed. [The Dispatch, 2/20/24; AFP, 3/1/24]
    • In photos and videos of the devastation in Hawaii, some blue objects appeared to be less burned than their surroundings, leading conspiracy theorists to believe the color has special properties. In particular, some pointed to a blue car, blue umbrellas, and even one of Oprah Winfrey’s homes (which turned out to be an hour’s drive from where the fires occurred) and concluded that blue objects cannot be damaged by DEWs. There is no evidence to support this. [Media Matters, 8/23/23; TikTok, 8/16/23; Newsweek, 8/14/23]
    • There was nothing notably unusual about the damage in Lahaina, and wildfire patterns are often unpredictable. “It’s actually very common that wildfires will burn out structures and vehicles but leave surrounding trees, utility poles, and other vegetation unscathed,” Michael Gollner, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who leads a fire research lab at the University of California, Berkeley, told AP News. [The Associated Press, 8/14/23]
    • Some roof designs are more wildfire resistant than others, but not because they’re blue. According to Fire Safe Marin, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing fire hazards in California, some roofing materials are more fire-resistant than others, and debris left to accumulate in gutters or roof tiles with certain shapes that allow animals to build nests can provide more fuel for a fire. [Fire Safe Marin, accessed 3/4/24]
  • X and TikTok users claim Biden’s roof comment is evidence of foul play

  • Social media users are speculating that Biden was referring to homes with blue roofs when he said “one home is sitting because it has the right roof on it,” apparently confirming their suspicions about the fires being set intentionally by government weapons.

    • On TikTok, Media Matters identified dozens of videos with hundreds of thousands of views theorizing that Biden was referring to a blue roof. The videos suggest that Biden “slipped up” or “said the quiet part out loud” by mentioning houses with “the right kind of roof,” alleging that he meant a blue roof. One video read, “Is this motherfucker admitting it was a direct attack on fellow Texans?" Another user complained that her previous video pushing the conspiracy theory had been taken down for promoting misinformation against TikTok’s community guidelines. “He let the truth actually slip and they’re trying to sponge it from the internet,” she claimed. [TikTok, 3/2/24, 3/2/24; TikTok Community Guidelines, accessed 3/4/24]
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    • Conspiracy theory account Wall Street Apes wrote: “Fact Checkers Say The Blue Roof Connection It’s A ‘Conspiracy Theory.’ The Rest Of Us Say It’s DEWs, Direct Energy Weapons.” On X, the account wrote: “We Saw The Untouched Blue Roof In The Maui Fire, We Saw The Same Thing In The Chili Fire, Joe Biden Confirmed Houses Will Burn In The Texas Fire UNLESS ‘They had the right roof on it’ Here’s the United States Military & FEMA having a ‘Blue Roof Program’… Coincidence? Fact Checkers Say The Blue Roof Connection It’s A ‘Conspiracy Theory.’ The Rest Of Us Say It’s DEWs, Direct Energy Weapons.” [Twitter/X, 3/2/24]
    • One TikTok video, which had at least 480,000 views but has seemingly been deleted, suggested Biden accidentally revealed the use of a DEW. “So did Joe Biden make a booboo in his speech in Texas today,” the user said. “The old man’s rambling like always, he’s talking about the fires in Texas at the border, but then he says the only houses that are left standing have the right roofs on them. … I don’t know man, it’s weird. Remember Oprah’s house, it was left standing, it had a blue roof. A lot of things that were blue didn’t really get touched by fire, isn’t that kind of odd?” [TikTok, 2/29/24]
    • Conspiracy theory account Concerned Citizen wrote that Biden was “literally admitting if you have the correct roof on your home then DEW won’t burn your house to the ground.” On X, the account wrote: “‘One Home sitting there because they had the right roof on it.’ The President saying the quiet part out loud again. Is this the President literally admitting if you have the correct roof on your home then DEW won’t burn your house to the ground? It’s a blue roof by the way. Thank me later.” [Twitter/X, 3/1/24]
    • Right-wing influencer Liz Churchill: “Freudian Slip Joe Biden possibly speaking of EMP Weapons.” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Another TikTok video, which had at least 358,000 views before it was deleted, featured text that said, “Remember the blue roofs during the Lahaina fires? Biden just seemed to confirm our suspicions.” [TikTok, 2/29/24]
    • A co-host of the QAnon podcast BrainStorm, who goes by “Joe Rambo,” claimed that Biden was declassifying secret information and shared a post suggesting the president “admit DEWs don’t affect your home if the roof is painted blue.” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Crypto influencer and right-wing conspiracy theorist Tara Bull shared a clip of Biden’s speech along with a TikTok video promoting Lahaina fire conspiracy theories about the color blue, writing: “What did Biden just say about the fire not burning homes that have ‘the right roof’?” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Right-wing MAGA account “I Meme Therefore I Am” wrote: “Did Biden just confirm that they use Directed Energy Weapons and that's why houses with blue roofs don't catch on fire?” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Shannon Townsend, co-host of the QAnon program MG Show, alluded to the conspiracy theory, sharing the clip of Biden’s February 29 remarks and writing: “The house with the blue roof? That what Biden is talking about here?” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • Another conspiracy theorist account shared Biden’s remarks and wrote “Blue Roof ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Confirmed.” The post continued: “Pedo Joe Telling You That Viewing The Wild Fire Damage From Above Shows How a Whole Line of Houses Can be Completely Destroyed But One Is Left Standing Because It Had The ‘RIGHT ROOF’ On It. Telling Us What We Already Know Joey, Blue Roofs Are The Fail Safe.” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • QAnon account Shadow of Ezra also boosted the conspiracy theory: “Biden suggested that having the right type of roof could offer protection from wildfires. People are speculating that he may have implied a specific roof color. What do you think he really means?” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
    • QAnon account Jack Straw: “#BREAKING: Joe Biden accidentally confirms direct energy weapons are the cause of wildfires by saying you should have the right roof.” [Twitter/X, 2/29/24]
  • Other online content creators speculate that the wildfires are “retaliation” for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s dispute with the administration’s border policies

  • Abbott has been highly critical of the Biden administration’s approach to handling migration at the southern border. In January, Abbott deployed Texas state police to block U.S. Border Patrol from entering Shelby Park at Eagle Pass, which has been turned into a holding center. Texas has also continued to erect razor wire between Shelby Park and the Rio Grande River after a Supreme Court ruling found that federal agents had the right to remove the wire.

    On social media, some conspiracy theorists and right-wing influencers alleged that the government started the fires deliberately to punish Texas for not complying with the Supreme Court ruling, or suggested that migrants were somehow involved in starting the Smokehouse Creek Fire.

    • One TikTok user claimed the fire is “suspicious” because Texas “wasn’t going for all this BS,” in a video with over 1 million views. Other users commented that the fires were “man made,” claiming that “TEXAS is OBVIOUSLY under attack by the government” as “Biden’s retaliation for [what] Texas did to the border.” [TikTok, 2/28/24]
  • commenters saying "this is Biden's retaliation against Texas"
    • OneTikTok video with at least 660,000 views suggested the fires happened because “TX gave a big FU to the feds” and “now they’re hit with a big ol wildfire that’s nearing a nuclear weapons facility.” The user also implied that the Texas fires and Lahaina fires were connected, adding, “Some of y’all might not get that, but the right ones will.” [TikTok, 2/28/24]
    • On X, another conspiracy theory account claimed the fire was an act of sabotage “because of Biden’s open borders.” The user wrote: “TEXAS: RUMORED Sabotage hits near nuclear weapons facility in Texas as fires rage towards the nuclear plant from Amarillo Texas, just north of the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Facility plant! Foreign agents struck again because of Biden’s open borders AND THE INFLUX OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS/TERRORISTS.” [Twitter/X, 2/28/24]
    • In a now-deleted tweet, right-wing media figure Rogan O’Handley, known online as “DC_Draino,” wrote: “Texas now has its 2nd largest wildfire in state history. Over 500,000 acres burned. How much you want to bet this was caused by our open border crisis?” [Twitter/X, 2/28/24]
    • Conspiracy theory account US Civil Defense News: “Foreign agents struck again because of Biden’s open borders!” The full post read, “Update: Sabotage hits nuclear weapons facility in Texas as fires rage towards the nuclear plant!! Video footage from Amarillo Texas, just north of the Pantex Nuclear Weapons Facility plant! Foreign agents struck again because of Biden’s open borders!!” [Twitter/, 2/28/24]