Conspiracy theorists are claiming that Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) has been replaced by a “body double” after photographs of the politician were shared on social media Monday.
Fetterman, who is currently being treated for clinical depression at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, was pictured alongside his chief of staff Adam Jentleson as the two met to discuss planned legislation.
“Productive morning with Senator Fetterman at Walter Reed discussing the rail safety legislation, Farm Bill and other Senate business,” Jentleson tweeted. “John is well on his way to recovery and wanted me to say how grateful he is for all the well wishes. He’s laser focused on PA & will be back soon.”
Fetterman was initially hospitalized on Feb. 15 after his despression, which his office says he has experienced “off and on throughout his life,” became more “severe” than normal.
The senator also had hearing issues after suffering a stroke in May, which forced Fetterman to use closed captioning in order to communicate due to the auditory issues it caused.
Fetterman’s supporters responded to the tweet by celebrating the politician’s recovery.
“So heartening to see him recovering and looking well!” one user wrote.
But opponents of the senator argued not only that he was unfit to serve but that Fetterman’s recovery was nothing more than a photo op.
“He’s not actually reading or discussing anything in those pictures,” a user who described himself as an ‘America First Republican’ wrote. “They came and gave him papers as a prop for a proof of life photo, then sent him back to bed.”
Given that much was made in the run-up to the 2022 midterms about Fetterman’s need to use closed-captioning in a nationally televised interview, people couldn’t believe he could casually converse without assistance.
But a growing number of far-right users have instead argued that Fetterman is not even alive and has been replaced by a body double, a popular conspiracy theory among supporters of QAnon.
“This is not Fetterman, this is clearly a body double,” another user said. “The man in this photo appears to KNOW HOW TO READ!!!!”
Others argued that the release of photos as opposed to video was even more proof that Fetterman was either extremely unwell or no longer alive.
“There are millions of videos posted online every day, but apparently video technology is not available yet for Democrat politicians,” a user wrote.
Some even called for Fetterman to provide further evidence that he was actually alive by holding up the day’s newspaper.
“I want to see him holding up the cover of today’s Washington Post,” another popular user tweeted.
Fetterman is just the latest high-profile figure suffering a medical issue to be targeted by right-wing conspiracy theorists.
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was also accused of being replaced by a body double after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a game in January in which he was struck in the chest. Right-wing internet users claimed that the issue was caused by the COVID-19 vaccine before demanding “proof of life” videos. When Hamlin resurfaced, conspiracy theorists continued to move the goalposts.
Everyone from President Joe Biden to former First Lady Melania Trump, according to conspiracy theorists, are secretly dead and have been replaced by others.
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*First Published: Mar 7, 2023, 8:17 am CST
Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.