First and foremost, let me start off by saying one thing: No, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not dead. But you may not have known that if you were quick to believe a tweet that was purportedly posted by Fox News on Saturday afternoon. However, she was hospitalized on Saturday, according to multiple reports.
An account that identifies itself as Fox News Channel (@FoxNewsChann) tweeted the official Supreme Court photo of Ginsburg at 4:20 p.m. EST with her name and the dates “1933-2019” superimposed over the image of her. The tweet was accompanied by the words, “JUST IN: SUPREME COURT JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG DEAD AT 86” before urging anybody who came across it on their timelines to “Tune into Fox News for breaking details.”
Only there were no details. And that’s because there was no breaking news. And, more importantly, there were no other reports of Ginsburg dying. In fact, if anybody had heeded the message in the tweet, they could have turned the channel to Fox News to find them spreading some other lie — but not the lie that Ginsburg had died.
However, CNN was reporting that the 86-year-old was admitted to the hospital on Friday night “after experiencing chills and a fever earlier in the day.” But that was nothing in that or other reports about the hospitalization hinting that she was either near death or dead. In fact, as CNN went on to report, “The Supreme Court justice expects to be released from the hospital as early as Sunday morning.”
Has Ginsburg died, that unfortunate news would have more than welcomed by people who relish the opportunity for President Donald Trump to appoint another conservative justice to further tip the Supreme Court to the right. When they found out they had been duped, they sounded off in anger on Twitter for all the wrong reasons.
However, for others who don’t care to verify any reports before running with them as if they were law, they took to Twitter to speculate about the confirmation hearings to replace Ginsburg, who, again, is very much alive. One Twitter account belonging to Robert Barnes, who identifies himself as a trial lawyer with more than 77,000 followers, tweeted that “Replacing Ginsburg will make Kavanaugh, Bork & Thomas hearings look like gentle civility.” More than two hours after the fake news tweet about Ginsburg’s fake death, Barnes’ tweet was still live.
The tweet was, however, timely in one sense: it came on the heels of scrutiny over Facebook’s role in the proliferation of spreading fake news on social media. Saturday’s tweet showed that fake news was far from restricted to just one social media platform. It also showed that if these social media posts continue to go unchecked, they could continue to falsely inform someone’s opinion right up to Election Day, which would be déjà vu all over again from 2016.
To be sure, Ginsburg’s health has been an issue, especially as of late. That truth undoubtedly lent some credence to the fake news tweet about her. Prior to Friday night’s hospitalization, she had been fresh off a stomach bug that forced her to miss an important hearing on DACA, former President Barack Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law designed to shield immigrants brought to this country illegally as children by allowing them to apply for protection from deportations. Ginsburg returned to the bench about a week later.
A fever and stomach bug were the least of her health problems, though.
CNN reminded readers earlier this month that Ginsburg “is a four-time cancer survivor and has been an active participant on the bench this term. In August, she announced that she was being treated for pancreatic cancer. At the time, the Court’s public information officer said, ‘The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body.’ In 1999, she successfully underwent surgery to treat colon cancer. She was treated for early stages of pancreatic cancer in 2009. Last December, Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove two cancerous nodules from her left lung.”
However, as of Saturday afternoon on Nov. 23, Ginsburg was still alive and well — real news that was likely greeted by a collective sigh of relief from those who cringe at the idea of Trump stacking the Supreme Court even more before next year’s election and ahead of his looming impeachment. Meanwhile, Fox News seemed to be doing nothing to dispell the fake news that was being falsely attributed to its own organization.