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Things We Saw Today: Snopes Debunks Rumors of That Tasing Death at the Capitol

 

Capitol riot participants

Considering the glaring lack of official briefings from law enforcement, many of the stories from last week’s putsch at the Capitol are still emerging. Reports of the events that transpired have been pieced together from video, social media posts, and interviews with reporters, eyewitnesses, and participants. Rumors have run rampant, and a social media rumor that quickly went viral asserted that one of the five people who died had passed away after tasering his own testicles. But legendary fact-checking site Snopes.com is here to tell us that this was not the case.

“[A]pparently a guy accidentally tasered himself in the balls and then died of a heart attack while trying to steal a painting yesterday,” reads part of a tweet from January 7th that has more than 21k retweets, and there were many more like it. This is the sort of “story” that fast gained traction online in its absurdity until we reached an echo-chamber point where millions of people likely believe this to be true. Not so, says Snopes.

55-year-old Kevin Greeson of Alabama did die of a heart attack mid-insurrection, but according to his wife and a subsequent report in the New York Times, Greeson was not inside the Capitol building at the time. He wasn’t trying to steal a painting, and there appears to have been no tasing involved.

Per Snopes:

Snopes spoke with Kristi Greeson, the wife of the late Kevin Greeson, who told us that there was no truth to the allegation that her husband’s heart attack was the result of his accidentally tasing himself. Greeson said that her husband attended the Capitol riot but never entered the building. Kevin had told his wife that he was in a safe area, but then he described seeing people pushing a barrier at a nearby location.

Greeson said that her husband was a supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump and that he was excited about going to “once-in-a-lifetime events,” but she denied allegations that her husband had stolen a painting or that he had even made it inside of the Capitol, for that matter. And he certainly didn’t “taser his balls.”

According to Greeson, her husband did not have a gun or a taser on him during the riot — to her knowledge he was only carrying a flagpole. Any claims that he “tasered his balls while stealing a painting” could not be “farther from the truth,” she said.

And from the Times:

In an interview on Thursday, his wife, Kristi Greeson, said authorities contacted her afterward to say that her husband had died of a heart attack. Ms. Greeson said her husband, who was a father of five, had left home on Tuesday, spending the night in Virginia with a friend. She said her husband, who had high blood pressure, was excited to attend the rally, believing the election had been stolen.

“He felt like it was a monumental event in his mind,” she said. “I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t feel like it was safe.”

[…] Mr. Greeson’s family said Thursday that “he was not there to participate in violence or rioting, nor did he condone such actions.”

We do a disservice to the very real and very horrific events that happened last Wednesday when we propagate unsourced stories. There were more than enough absurd and terrible things that are on record and on video that to amplify rumors is unhelpful. The case of Greeson is one more reminder to question and investigate information before smashing that retweet button. Failing to interrogate the statements we see online played a large part in why so many people believed President Trump’s lies and were present at the Capitol in the first place.

(via Snopes, image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Here are some other things we saw today:

  • The publishing industry is slowly turning away from giving massive book deals to massive right-wing tools and seditionists like Senator Josh Hawley. (via Vox)
  • New faces have been cast on The Umbrella Academy. (via EW)

It’s somehow Monday again on what feels like December 43rd, 2020. What did you see today?

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.