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The New York Times did not publish or pull down a story claiming the president died

July 2, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows a news story that The New York Times posted on June 27, then quickly pulled down, which claimed U.S. President Donald Trump died of a hydroxychloroquine overdose.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. This image is fabricated and does not reflect work by The New York Times. The false rumor that Trump overdosed and was pronounced dead originated as a prank on TikTok.

THE FACTS: The president is alive and well and has had numerous public appearances in recent days.

But you might have been confused if you saw posts online claiming The New York Times published, then retracted, a story about his death.

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“Anyone see this?” one Twitter user posted on July 2. “The article was pulled immediately. They’re getting desperate.”

Posted along with the tweet — which was shared by more than 2,800 people — was a screenshot showing what looked like a news article, with the headline “Donald J. Trump pronounced dead.” The fake article, attributed to Times writer Paul Krugman, claimed Trump suffered a hydroxychloroquine overdose and speculated on whether he was abusing drugs.

A closer look at the picture, though, reveals the article is not legitimate. The font and writing style do not match The New York Times’ website. And the writer Paul Krugman, an economist and opinion columnist for the Times, does not write breaking news stories and would not be a likely author for a piece like this.

The picture being shared on Twitter is a screenshot from a June 27 TikTok video that the user later deleted. On TikTok one day before that, a user known as @thesoggycactus posted a video explaining a ploy to get the hashtag #riptrump trending by sharing fake rumors about his death by hydroxychloroquine overdose.

“Much like one of my close friends faked her death in seventh grade, I want to do the same thing for our president, and this is how we’re going to do it,” the TikTok user said in the video. “Use the hashtag #riptrump. I want to see people making T-shirts. I want to see memoriam posts. I need artists making pictures. We all need to get behind this, but the only way we can really make this believable is if we have the same backstory as to why he is no longer serving with us.”

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That video received more than 521,000 likes in five days, and the hashtag had been viewed more than 20 million times as of July 2. 

Several TikTok users dutifully went along with the ruse, crafting videos featuring fake tweets from First Lady Melania Trump, fake Wikipedia posts showing Trump died and other altered media. 

The TikTok user who spread the rumor about the fake New York Times article posted an explanation a day later, confirming she shared it as a joke. 

“That video was entirely a joke and meant no harm,” she said.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536