Lisa Marie Presley arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on May 7, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Before loved ones and fans could even shared their tributes, anti-vaxxers and conspiracists were posting baseless theories about why or how Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, had died.
Presley’s mother confirmed her daughter’s death in a message posted on Instagram on Thursday: “It is with a heavy heart that I must share the devastating news that my beautiful daughter Lisa Marie has left us,” Priscilla Presley said.
The cause of Presley’s death at the age of 54 was not made public, but TMZ reported that she was found unconscious at her home after suffering a cardiac arrest. According to TMZ, Her ex-husband, who also lives on the property, attempted CPR before she was rushed to hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her family has a long history of heart disease.
Presley is survived by her mother and three daughters. Her son Benjamin Keough died by suicide in 2020. She was last seen in public on Tuesday, when she attended the Golden Globes awards ceremony with her mother.
As has become all too predictable in the wake of a celebrity’s death, especially those who die at a young age, cranks, conspiracists, right-wing figures and even fellow celebrities were sharing conspiracy theories about Presley’s death being linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.
There is no public evidence that Presley had been vaccinated against COVID-19, but some people shared a screenshot of a Facebook post from March citing it as evidence that Presley had been vaccinated and said she had “no regrets” about it.
But a VICE News review of the Facebook post found that the message was not posted by Presley, but by a Spanish beauty blogger whose account has the screen name “Lisa Marie.”
These claims were made on mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, while even wilder conspiracies spread on fringe platforms like Truth Social and Telegram, and message boards like The Donald.
Among the earliest promoters of the bogus claims was Travis Tritt, a country music singer who posted on Truth Social: “This is unbelievably sad. How many more of these premature deaths have to happen before people start to question what the cause is?”
In case there was any doubt, Tritt followed up with another post: “It is the vaccines and boosters, stupid!”
Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren also hinted at a conspiracy when she posted “a lot of sudden deaths lately” on her Instagram account, which has 1.9 million followers.
Lahren’s post is an example of how much of the anti-vax conspiracy theories about Presley’s death are shared in semi-coded language about people dying suddenly, or skeptical claims that this was “another coincidence.”
Another celebrity sharing false claims was actor, Jim Caviezel, who has embraced a number of conspiracy communities in recent years, including QAnon. “Mockingbird Media doesn’t want anyone questioning whether it was from COVID shot,” Caviezel wrote on his Telegram channel, referencing an alleged Cold War-era CIA operation to manipulate the media.
After news of Presley’s death broke, Telegram became a hive of wild conspiracies. In one channel, dedicated to people who believe that John F. Kennedy is still alive, most of the posts suggested that the COVID vaccination was to blame. “Keep taking the vaccine you stupid fools,” one wrote.
However some others promoted another theory that linked Presley’s death back to a conspiracy theory that her father did not die in 1977, but was actually placed in witness protection and is still alive.
“In witness protection program?” someone asked, referencing a wild conspiracy that was shared across multiple channels. In one QAnon channel, one user added: “I pray she’s in witness protection.”
Another theory floated by some QAnon adherents was that Presley was murdered because she was speaking up about child sex abuse and so the so-called “deep state” killed her to protect the liberal, Democratic elite who they—baselessly—believe are running global sex trafficking rings.
“Strange she just spoke out about Elvis being a pedo and then dating when she was under age,” one member of the QAnon channel wrote, even though there’s no evidence of her ever having done this publicly.
The baseless speculation surrounding Presley’s death is, in the era of COVID, an entirely predictable phenomenon. Within minutes of a death being announced, anti-vaxxers jump on the news claiming it as proof that the vaccine is “poison.”
Celebrities including Coolio, who died in September of a suspected cardiac arrest, and sportspeople like cricketer Shane Warne, who died last March of a suspected heart attack, have been subject to similar, baseless speculation in the last year.
Even those who don’t die, like Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, become the source of wild speculation and conspiracies.
But those who spread these false claims do not appear to be concerned about the hurt it can cause to the families of those who have died or been injured; they believe they are simply searching for the truth.
“I am just looking for some honesty,” one Telegram user wrote on a thread about Presley’s death. “Truth for humanity. I would like to know the cause of death or was there foul play….like being given a dangerous experimental shot????”
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