Was Jeff Zients, a former White House coordinator for COVID-19 response under President Joe Biden, arrested by the military on December 12, 2022? No, that's not true: The Department of Defense told Lead Stories that the claim, which was posted by a website notable for its satirical content, is false.
The claim originated from an article titled "Military Arrests Covid-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients" and published on December 13, 2022, on Real Raw News (archived here). The article opened:
The White Hat partition of the U.S. military on Monday arrested the criminal Biden regime's former Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients for treason and murder related to pushing experimental and potentially lethal vaccines on the American public, a JAG source told Real Raw News.
This is how the article looked at the time of writing:
(Source: Real Raw News screenshot taken on Wed Dec 14 15:46:58 2022 UTC)
In an email sent to Lead Stories on December 14, 2022, Eric Pahon, a duty officer for the Department of Defense's press operations, said of the claim that Zients was arrested:
No, he was not. Untrue.
The article's reference to a so-called "White Hat partition of the U.S. military" is a part of a QAnon conspiracy theory asserting that there is a war between the Deep State, a group of corrupt government officials and public figures, and "white hats," the supposed insider good guys who are fighting back. That debunked theory is explained in depth by Lead Stories here.
Real Raw News
Real Raw News is a website that consistently publishes made-up stories about U.S. politics. The well-written English and news-style layout of the website make it look like a legitimate news source, so it often fools people into believing the stories are real. Screenshots and copies of the stories regularly turn up on other websites or on social media where they are presented as real.
It bills itself as "humor, parody and satire" on the "About" page (archived here):
Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. This website contains humor, parody, and satire. We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.
The same "about" page claims the main author is a man named Michael Baxter. In 2021 a PolitiFact article (archived here) identified the writer as a "Michael Tuffin" in Texas based on records found in a GoFundMe campaign set up to support the site.
NewsGuard, a tool that provides credibility ratings for websites, published a five-page PDF report (archived here) in 2021 describing realrawnews.com as, "An anonymously run website that has published baseless and debunked conspiracies about COVID-19 and U.S. politics." It cautioned that the "website severely violates basic journalistic standards."
Lead Stories has covered claims published by Real Raw News in the past. Previous Lead Stories debunks of Real Raw News items are collected here.