Fact Check: NYTimes Did NOT Invent Doctor Fighting Coronavirus In QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Hoax Alert

  • by: Jessica Ravitz
Fact Check: NYTimes Did NOT Invent Doctor Fighting Coronavirus In QAnon Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy

Did the New York Times publish a video featuring an ER physician at Elmhurst Hospital who was peddling lies and doesn't even work at the hospital? No, that's not true: Dr. Colleen Smith does work at the Queens, New York, hospital and offered insight into the overwhelming conditions hospitals face in combatting COVID-19. The idea that she isn't legitimate is nothing more than a QAnon conspiracy theory.

The claim appeared in a tweet (archived here) that was published by LadyWarAnon⭐⭐⭐ (or @ChristinePolon1) on April 1, 2020. The tweet linked to a post with the video from the New York Times, which published on March 25, 2020, and began with this:

"I just called this hospital. They checked twice and there is NO Dr. Colleen Smith that works there. Critical care patients are in gowns, not shoes and street clothes. They have plenty of ventilators! This is a flat out lie! @realDonaldTrump @SecPompeo @EsperDoD #COVID19 https://t.co/wKH0zsWBzT"

Users on social media only saw this title, description and thumbnail:

LadyWarAnon⭐⭐⭐ on Twitter

"I just called this hospital. They checked twice and there is NO Dr. Colleen Smith that works there. Critical care patients are in gowns, not shoes and street clothes. They have plenty of ventilators! This is a flat out lie! @realDonaldTrump @SecPompeo @EsperDoD #COVID19 https://t.co/wKH0zsWBzT"

The video, entitled "'People Are Dying': 72 Hours Inside a N.Y.C. Hospital Battling Coronavirus," ran in conjunction with a written piece in the newspaper with this headline: "13 Deaths in a Day: An 'Apocalyptic' Cornoavirus Surge at an N.Y.C. Hospital."

A quick search online uncovers plenty of evidence that Smith is legitimate. She's described as an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. She's given a nod in U.S. News & World Report, which shows her ties to Elmurst Hospital in New York. And her bio appears on a site called feminem, which is dedicated to "females working in emergency medicine."

Smith is listed as, "Assistant Professor, Associate Residency Program Director, Mount Sinai, Elmhurst," and her full bio reads this way:

Dr. Smith is currently one of the Assistant Program Directors for the Mount Sinai Emergency Medicine Residency Program. She has a focus in medical education and simulation, having completed a simulation fellowship at NYU/Bellevue. She enjoys speaking about the application of simulation to medical education and patient care, methods of feedback, and avoidance of cognitive errors or biases.

LadyWarAnon⭐⭐⭐offers as a Twitter profile a string of emojis interspersed with hashtags including, "#QAnon," "#MAGA" and "#AmericaFirst."

QAnon is a far-right conspiracy community that shares messages through social media. Adherents to this movement are typically hardcore supporters of President Trump.

The Daily Beast set out to explain QAnon in a piece called "What is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained," which first published in July 2018 and was later updated. Here's how the author defined the movement:

QAnon springs from a series of cryptic clues that started to be posted online in October 2017. Starting on 4Chan before migrating to the even more fringe 8Chan, the anonymous person behind the clues goes by "Q," a reference to a high-level government security clearance. The "Anon" in "QAnon" refers to both Q himself, and to Q's nameless supporters, the "anons."

Q is supposed to be revealing this top-secret information via the clues, which QAnon fans have dubbed "breadcrumbs."

Q's original method for for sharing messages or "Q drops," 8Chan, was taken offline in the aftermath of the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting of August 3, 2019, Lead Stories reported. The shooting suspect used the platform to post his "manifesto," renewing criticism it had become a megaphone for mass shooters, and a recruiting platform for violent white nationalists," the New York Times reported.

The QAnon conspiracy that Smith, the Elmhurst ER doctor, does not exist later morphed into accusations that Smith is merely engaged in simulations -- that what she presented was not real.

LadyWarAnon⭐⭐⭐ tweeted out a subsequent message that read, "I believe this was a hospital simulation pushed by #FakeNews #EnemyOfThePeople #StayHome."

Here's how that tweet appeared:

Not only does Smith, the ER doctor, work at Elmhurst Hospital, but on March 31, 2020, the New York Times tweeted out that Smith tested positive for the virus. Here is how that post began:

Dr. Colleen Smith, the ER doctor who last week took us inside Queens's overstretched Elmhurst Hospital, has tested positive for the coronavirus. So far, she said, she only has mild symptoms.

And here is how it appeared on social media:

Lead Stories is working hard to debunk false stories spreading about COVID-19, which has already killed more than 6,500 people in the United States alone.

Here are a few recent examples, including one that addresses another QAnon conspiracy:

Fact Check: COVID-19 Is NOT A Fabrication Or A Scapegoat For Economic Disaster

Fact Check: Big Pharma Is NOT Behind Massive Infection and Death Rates In COVID-19 Conspiracy

Fact Check: Tom Hanks, Others NOT Arrested For Pedophilia Or Other Crimes in QAnon Conspiracy

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Jessica Ravitz

Jessica Ravitz, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is a former senior writer at CNN Digital. For more than a decade, she wrote longform narratives and profiles on topics ranging from gun violence, sexual assault and suicide to women’s health, spirituality and race.

 

Read more about or contact Jessica Ravitz

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