STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did Microsoft founder Bill Gates pen an open letter about COVID-19, saying it was "sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten?" No, that's not true: The letter is fake, and The Sun newspaper retracted a story about it, according to published reports.
"MICROSOFT founder Bill Gates has released a powerful message about what we can learn from the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe."
Lead Stories was contacted on March 27, 2020, by a man who claimed to be the original author of the piece, which he said he posted on Facebook on March 18, 2020 (archived here). Here's how the post by Mohammed Ali read, in part:
What is the Corona/ Covid-19 Virus Really Teaching us?
I'm a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad.
As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:"
(You can read the rest of the post here.)
"It went viral and somewhere along the line, my name was not mentioned and someone said it might have been written by Bill Gates, which then became stated as it was written by Bill Gates (even though many people who shared it still questioned that he wrote it)," Ali told Lead Stories in the email. "This post was not written as a hoax or a spoof, it was a genuine message."
He followed up on Facebook with another post on March 23, when he said he learned the post had gone viral:
The last 24 hours have been very strange as a post that I wrote at the beginning of this pandemic is now doing its rounds on Social Media and Whatsapp, being attributed to Bill Gates! I have received my own message 3 times, attributed to Bill Gates!"
Here is how that post appeared:
But this is what most users on social media saw:
The supposed letter continued, in part, as published by Northern Breeze:
I'm a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:
1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should to. If you don't believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
The Sun did not respond to email and telephone inquiries from Lead Stories about the article, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation declined to comment on the record.
The Independent, a UK-based news organization, was among the first to publicly debunk the story, saying the bogus message is believed to have begun circulating this week in email and WhatsApp groups.
It also quoted an unnamed Sun spokesperson as saying, "In the heat of events yesterday, The Sun online mistakenly published a spoof story which was doing the rounds on email. The story has now been removed."
2020-03-27T23:02:13Z 2020-03-27T23:02:13ZUpdated story with comments from Mohammed Ali, who appears to be the original poster, as well as posts from Ali.