Fact Check: Marines Did NOT Hang NIH Official Alfred Johnson -- Story Is Made Up

Fact Check

  • by: Kaiyah Clarke
Fact Check: Marines Did NOT Hang NIH Official Alfred Johnson -- Story Is Made Up Pentagon: Nope

Did U.S. Marines hang National Institute of Health Deputy Director Alfred Johnson after pranking him "Whitmer-style"? No, that's not true: A Pentagon duty officer told Lead Stories that the claim is false. The claim is in an article on a website that regularly publishes fabricated content.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by Real Raw News on January 25, 2024, under the headline "NIH Honcho Alfred Johnson Hanged After Getting Pranked Whitmer-Style by Marines." It began:

Former NIH Deputy Director Alfred Johnson was hanged Wednesday at Camp Blaz, but only after Marine escorts closely mimicked a prank GITMO MPs had pulled on Gretchen Whitmer in June--misleading her into believing that Adm. Crandall found exculpatory evidence clearing her of all charges and ordered her immediate release.

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

Alfred Johnson RRN Image .png

(Source: Real Raw News screenshot taken on Fri Jan 26 14:05:43 2024 UTC)

The article claimed that Johnson is a "former" National Institute of Health (NIH) deputy director who was hanged by U.S. Marines on January 24, 2024. In fact, Johnson is the current deputy director of management at NIH (archived here), and he has not been hung by anyone.

A Pentagon duty officer responded to an inquiry from Lead Stories regarding this claim via email on January 26, 2024, writing:

This claim is false.

Lead Stories also contacted the NIH for a statement from Johnson or his representative regarding this claim. In a January 26, 2024 email, NIH responded:

We can confirm that this article is blatantly false. Readers should refer to the outlet's disclaimer.

The article also said that Johnson's supposed arrest warrant was signed by Vice Adm. Darse E. Crandall. Crandall's name has been used multiple times in conspiracy articles published by Real Raw News. These present him as leading extrajudicial military tribunals and executions, which are a popular QAnon trope. A site-specific Google search for the term "Vice Adm. Crandall" (archived here) brings up more than 70 articles about events that didn't happen but which claim that Crandall had announced the arrests of notable people, death sentences and hangings.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks that mention the U.S. Marines and Real Raw News can be found here.

Real Raw News

Real Raw News has a long history of publishing false claims in mock news stories, many of them about convictions and executions of various public figures at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. For example, the site reported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hanged (she wasn't); former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was executed (he wasn't); and "the military" convicted former Attorney General William Barr on charges of treason (it didn't).

The website for Real Raw News includes a disclaimer that declares the site does not stand by the contents of the stories, calling them entertainment. Specifically, it says:

Information on this website is for informational and educational and entertainment purposes. ... We have included this disclaimer for our protection, on the advice on legal counsel.

Real Raw snip.jpg

(Source: RealRawNews.com screenshot taken Tue Aug 3 16:39:48 UTC 2021)

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.

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  Kaiyah Clarke

Kaiyah Clarke is a fact-checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Journalism. When she is not fact-checking or researching counter-narratives in society, she is often found reading a book on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Read more about or contact Kaiyah Clarke

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