Ruth Bader Ginsburg Death Rumors Proliferated Online by QAnon, Former Trump Adviser

Supporters of President Donald Trump repeated claims that Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was hiding an illness or may in fact be dead in a rumor first started by the far-right conspiracy-theory group QAnon. Conspiracy theorists claimed that Democrats were covering up her purported death to prevent Trump from appointing another Supreme Court justice.

In December, Ginsburg had surgery to remove cancerous lung growths and has not appeared in public since. QAnon attributed her public absence to a Democrat cover-up, The Daily Beast reported.

CNN reported on January 22 that Ginsburg "sounded strong and cheerful" when learning that the CNN-produced film about her life had been nominated for a best feature documentary Oscar.

On January 5, Q, the anonymous user or users behind QAnon, wrote on its website: "What 'off-market' drugs are being provided to [RBG] in order to sustain minimum daily function? What is the real medical diagnosis of [RBG]? Who is managing her care? Who is 'really' managing her care?”

Trump supporter Jacob Wohl, known for his alleged defrauding of investors and subsequent ban from futures trading, and who failed in an attempt to smear special counsel Robert Mueller with a sexual assault hoax, has also been fueling the conspiracy. Wohl previously claimed that Ginsburg would resign on January 11. When this did not come to pass, he switched to pushing the claim that her death was being kept secret.

Conspiracy theorists also pounced on a Ginsburg obituary graphic that Fox News mistakenly aired on January 21. Meanwhile, former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka challenged her to appear at the State of the Union address on February 5, tweeting: “Still no sign. 6 days left until Ruth Bader Ginsberg [sic] has to make her official appearance at @realDonaldTrump's State of the Union.”

Conspiracy theorists have been asserting that attendance at the State of the Union is compulsory for justices, which it isn't, and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed the address as part of the Ginsburg cover-up.

The rumors picked up speed on social media, boosted by the hashtag #WheresRuth on QAnon-related accounts. Conservative actor James Woods tweeted the hashtag twice, which was then retweeted 13,000 times, writing: "Seriously though… #WheresRuth?"

The QAnon conspiracy theory first emerged in 2017 with the claim that Trump was working to uncover a pedophile ring run by top Democrats in Washington. Supporters have since appeared at several high-profile Trump events and the conspiracy theory was also boosted by TV personality Roseanne Barr via Twitter.

It has also been referred to by political figures such as Pam Patterson, the outgoing councilwoman in San Juan Capistrano, California, who mentioned the group in her farewell speech last month when she said: "God bless America, God bless Q, and God bless San Juan Capistrano."

In December, a SWAT team officer in Broward County, Florida, was demoted after meeting Vice President Mike Pence while wearing a patch referencing QAnon. Sergeant Matt Patten greeted Pence at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, wearing a patch on his uniform with a black 'Q' and the phrase "Question the Narrative."