Hillary Clinton’s Body Double: Why the Conspiracy Theories About Teresa Barnwell Are False

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Teresa Barnwell, left, is not Hillary Clinton's body double, though Twitter conspiracy theorists are saying otherwise. Teresa Barnwell

Despite what Donald Trump’s supporters and others are saying on Twitter, Teresa Barnwell is not working as Hillary Clinton’s secret “body double.” On Monday, #hillarysbodydouble was trending on the social network and it’s the latest rumor in an election cycle that has given a platform to several absurd conspiracy theories. After the Democratic presidential candidate left a 9/11 memorial event early on Sunday for health reasons, and later emerged from her daughter’s New York City residence in good spirits, some suggested the healthier-looking Clinton was not actually her.

Who was this “other” Hillary? Conspiracists have pointed to Barnwell, who has been impersonating Clinton since the 1990s. Nevermind that Barnwell was in Los Angeles on Sunday for a live taping of the television show Lip Sync Battle. On Monday, Barnwell’s website crashed from all the traffic. Asked if she is working as a “body double” for the candidate, Barnwell says, “Good heavens, no.”

The body double rumors may be partly Barnwell’s doing. She says she learned of Clinton’s health scare on Sunday when she arrived at the studio; the Bill Clinton impersonator hired for the same sketch told her the news. In good fun, she decided to post a photo on Twitter she had taken weeks earlier outside of Chelsea Clinton’s building, along with the caption, “Maybe I was in NYC today…you never know!” She later deleted it because of the unwanted attention. “I don’t do government work,” she tells Newsweek. “I’m not trained for that.”

As of Monday afternoon, Trump supporters online were still comparing “before” and “after” images of Clinton and pulling from Barnwell’s website and social media accounts.

“Donald Trump’s campaign is fueled by one conspiracy theory after another,” Clinton campaign spokesman Glen Caplin says via email. “You would think that at this point you couldn’t be surprised by the crazy conspiracy theories being trumped up, but this one is so insane that even a Sandy Hook denier like InfoWars isn’t buying it.”

Barnwell began impersonating Hillary Clinton in 1993, after Bill Clinton became president. She met the first lady in 1996 at a book signing in Los Angeles. “You’re the one who can stand in for me and do the bad stuff I don’t want to do,” Clinton apparently joked when they met, according to Barnwell.

“It was a lot more fun in the '90s,” Barnwell says of the job. “People had a sense of humor no matter what their political affiliation.” She says she was even hired to promote merchandise in character at the 1996 Republican National Convention, an event she says she wouldn’t attend now. She took on the gig full-time in 2000, leaving behind jobs in newspaper advertising and publishing. Requests quieted down during Clinton’s secretary of state years, according to Barnwell, and picked up again the day after Clinton announced she was again running for president.

Today, business is good, Barnwell says, but she has plenty of days off. She doesn’t get as much attention as the Trump impersonators do, she adds: “That’s where the joke is.” Not that she minds the downtime. “I wish I had her stamina. Because I take one trip and I’m like, Oh, man, I can’t wait to get home and get in my bed.” 09_12_Clinton_body_double_02 Teresa Barnwell has been impersonating Clinton since 1993. Teresa Barnwell

Barnwell says her politics are “middle of the road” and plans on voting for Clinton. She even voted for her in 2008 as a write-in candidate. “I felt like I owed it to her to vote for her,” she says. “I just was grateful for her persona and everything she had done in life because that had trickled down to me.”

Barnwell appeared in a video in August that poked fun at Clinton’s attempts to reach young voters, which has since received nearly 3 million views. She had to turn to a millennial—her 20-something goddaughter—to learn what a meme is, let alone about “Damn Daniel” and the other references in the clip.

Despite her resemblance to Clinton, Barnwell says she rarely gets noticed on the street when she’s not dressed up as the candidate. “I have the best of both worlds. Because I can go home and be myself,” she says. But she’s embraced her unusual talent and plans on doing so in the near future. “It’s just a freaky thing,” she says. “I don’t know why I look so much like the most famous person in the world.”