In the wake of Tuesday’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, Twitter users have gone viral for making false claims about two of the state’s most high-profile politicians: Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz, both Republicans.
On Thursday, a Twitter account by the name “My Cancer Journey” posted a three tweet story which was shared tens of thousands of times by others on Twitter before being deleted.
The tweets were believed to have been written by someone whose nephew was shot in the Robb Elementary School massacre. The tweets claimed that a rep for Abbott knocked on their door, shortly after they returned home after identifying their nephew’s body, and that rep “informed us that he was prepared to pay us for stand with the government and say we don’t need tougher gun laws.”
The tweets claimed the governor’s rep then threatened them with ‘charges and maybe worse’ if they spoke about the conversation – and then the rep even said ‘people get hurt and disappear all the time’.
In total, the three tweets were retweeted or quoted over 67,000 times and liked over 240,000 times. Many of these actions came from liberals opposed to Abbott and Cruz. While some questioned whether the story was real or not, others considered it genuine.
The facts first: Abbott’s viral story is fake. The “My Cancer Journey” account deleted the three viral tweets on Friday, then the account was completely offline. The man behind the account insisted in a brief phone interview Friday with CNN that an unknown person who somehow gained access to the account posted the tweets as a “hoax.” But the man refused to explain a series of past tweets, long before the Uvalde massacre, in which he made a wide variety of other sensational and highly dubious claims about his life.
Abbott’s spokeswoman Renae Eze said in an email: ‘That didn’t happen and would never be allowed to happen.’ She said Abbott would never allow a staff member to show up unannounced at the door of a grieving family.
Speaking in a clueless tone on Friday, the man behind the account claimed he and a lawyer were trying to determine who the real author of the tweets was. He also claimed that they reported the alleged account intrusion to “authorities” he did not identify.
Rachel Millman, the social media editor of New York-based publication Observer, did much of the research into the “My Cancer Journey” account’s history of suspicious claims. Several other people on Twitter also raised questions about the account before CNN reached the man on Friday.
Another Twitter user accused Cruz of tweeting the exact same three sentences after 12 different mass shootings, only changing the location each time.
This tweet, from a user who goes by the name “chavito” on Twitter and rap stage name Cali Kev, generated more than 17,000 retweets and quote-tweets, as well as more than 43,000 likes.
“Chavito” wrote‘These mass shootings are happening so much that Ted Cruz really has a role model ready to tweet whenever they happen’ – adding an expletive and calling the situation ‘wild’.
The viral tweet featured a collage of 12 images that showed Cruz supposedly tweeting the same words over and over again: “Heidi and I are fervently raising in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting of [location]. We are in close contact with local officials, but specific details are still being worked out. Thank you to the heroic law enforcement and first responders for acting so quickly.
The man behind the “chavito” account did not respond to a request for comment. Cruz’s office confirmed that the senator tweeted this message in response to the Uvalde massacre but not in response to others.
Some other Twitter users criticized Cruz for using similar language, about prayer and law enforcement, in his tweets about some past shootings. It’s fair game. But the allegation in the viral tweet was that he used the same three full sentences after 12 shootings, and that simply isn’t true.